GE Won’t Fight Massive Class Cert. Bid In Retirement Suit

Posted December 16th, 2019.

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By Emily Brill

Law360 (December 16, 2019, 10:34 PM EST) — General Electric Co. is not opposing a request for a Massachusetts federal judge to certify a class of hundreds of thousands of GE workers and retirees in their lawsuit accusing the company of improperly investing employees’ retirement savings in subpar company-affiliated funds.

The proposed class asked U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani on Friday to certify the class, which consists of anyone who has joined the GE Retirement Savings Plan since Sept. 26, 2011, who had money stored in at least one GE-affiliated investment fund.

The unopposed motion for class certification puts forward 10 proposed class representatives, telling Judge Talwani they are “ready, willing and able to fulfill the duties required of a class representative.”

The motion also argues that the suit should proceed as a class action, because the class members have similar complaints.

“There are numerous questions related to Defendants’ alleged fiduciary breach that are common to the claims of all class members, including: whether Defendants are fiduciaries [and] whether Defendants breached their fiduciary duties in each respect alleged by Plaintiffs,” the proposed class said in the motion.

The motion indicates that GE hasn’t given up its right to fight claims by individual class members.

The workers initially sued GE, GE Asset Management and other affiliates and individuals in 2017, alleging that GE breached its fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by using the plan to generate business for GE Asset Management, which sold mutual funds.

GE placed those funds on its retirement plan’s lineup even though their investments underperformed, the proposed class claimed. According to the suit, GE kept the funds in the plan to collect fees for a subsidiary and inflate the subsidiary’s value before it was sold.

GE filed a motion to dismiss the case, and in response Judge Talwani trimmed one claim from the suit last year but refused to toss it entirely. GE has since asked her to reconsider that decision.

Counsel for the parties were not immediately available for comment after hours Monday.

The proposed class is represented by Jason M. Leviton and R. Joseph Barton of Block & Leviton LLP, Mark C. Gardy and Orin Kurtz of Gardy & Notis LLP, Lee Squitieri of Squitieri & Fearon LLP, Evan J. Kaufman and Magdalene Economou of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, and Paul Blankenstein and Charles H. Field of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.

GE is represented by James O. Fleckner, Alison V. Douglass and Jaime A. Santos of Goodwin Procter LLP.

The case is In re: GE ERISA Litigation, case number 1:17-cv-12123, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

–Additional reporting by Kevin Stawicki. Editing by Breda Lund.

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