Facing allegations of imprudent management of workers’ retirement funds, Allianz Asset Management agreed to pay $12 million to settle. According to allegations against the company, they kept everything in the Allianz family of funds excluding all other possibilities from consideration.
U.S. District Judge Staton found the amount offered to plan participants reasonable and granted preliminary approval to the approved deal. The deal was struck at a little over 25% of Allianz’ potential liability in the case. Current and former plan participants allege that the actions of the company were not in the best interest of investors and that the company treated the retirement plan as a way to promote the company’s family of mutual fund businesses while maximizing its own profits. The settlement comes only after close to two years of litigation and a conditional certification of class.
The Defendants did file a motion to dismiss, as well as a motion for summary judgment. While there are other cases that contain similar facts and allegations that ended in favor of the defendants, in this particular case, the court found that factors specific to the case warranted granting preliminary approval. The proposed settlement would be to cover all participants and beneficiaries of the plan since October 7, 2009.
In October 2015, a group of plan participants led by Aleksandr Urakhchin filed a complaint accusing the company of breaching its fiduciary duty to its own investors when they did not consider all available options. Or in other words, by excluding non-Allianz mutual funds, Allianz violated ERISA.
According to the complaint, because the company held onto the funds, plan participants ended up spending millions in excessive fees annually. For instance, in 2013, fees being charged for proprietary funds were about 75% higher than averages for the same time period. This resulted in over $2.5 million in unnecessary, exorbitant fees in 2013 alone. Investors claimed that not only did the company not consider non-Allianz options that may have performed better, but that the Allianz branded-funds chosen often had little or no track record and that frequently underperformed. Even after this became obvious, employees claim the company moved forward with their policy to pour employee retirement funds into Allianz owned investments.
As a part of the agreed upon settlement deal, Allianze will retain an unaffiliated investment consultant to conduct an annual evaluation of the lineup and review the policy statement for at least three years.
If you need to discuss problematic handling of your retirement funds, or other ERISA violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.