Final Approval Granted in $30 Million Settlement of 401(k) Excessive Fee Case Against International Paper

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On January 31, 2014 St. Louis law firm Schlichter, Bogard & Denton obtained final approval of a $30 Million settlement with International Paper regarding its 401(k) fee class action in Beesley, et al. v. International Paper Company, et al., 06-703, in the U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, a St. Louis law firm, today achieved final approval of its $30 million settlement on behalf of International Paper employees who participated in International Paper’s Hourly and Salaried 401(k) plans. Beesley v. International Paper, Case No. 06-703, Doc. 559 (S.D.Ill.). The case involves disputes over the handling of the International Paper’s 401(k) plans, the prudence and level of fees of certain plan investment options, and the management and inclusion of International Paper’s company stock fund. The settlement was approved by Chief Judge Herndon in the Southern District of Illinois.

The settlement is a significant recovery for the 401(k) plan investors and also includes multiple provisions designed to enhance the plans’ offerings and reduce fees in the future.

Jerome Schlichter of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, attorneys for the employees and retirees, stated, “This has been a seven-year battle fought for one goal — to enhance the retirement security of International Paper employees. Today, that goal has been achieved and the employees and retirees of International Paper will have a 401(k) plan going forward which protects their hard earned retirement assets.” The case began on September 11, 2006 when the Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint. Beesley v. International Paper, Case No. 06-703, Doc. 1 (S.D.Ill.).

The employees and retirees alleged, among other things, that the fiduciaries responsible for overseeing the plan breached their legal duties by allowing the plan to pay excessive investment management and recordkeeping fees. As part of the settlement, International Paper has agreed to a variety of initiatives designed to enhance its review of alternatives for the Plans and Plan Participants’ retirement savings. Additionally, International Paper has agreed to add a passively managed index equity fund to the Plans, which is expected to give the participants an effective, low-cost investment option. International Paper has also agreed to continue to exclude retail class mutual funds from the Plans’ lineup and to the oversight of an Independent Monitor for a four-year period.

The International Paper case was one of a number of cases filed by Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, which launched the field of 401(k) fiduciary breach litigation for excessive fees. After years of litigation, Schlichter, Bogard, & Denton recently won a $50 million judgment from ABB and Fidelity in a case on behalf of ABB employees and retirees in ABB’s 401(k) plan, after the first full trial of a 401(k) excessive fee claim in the country. Tussey v. ABB, Inc., Case No. 06-4305 (W.D. Mo.) The firm has also settled other cases on behalf of participants in the 401(k) plans of Caterpillar, General Dynamics, Kraft Foods, Cigna and Bechtel totaling over $120 million. Martin v. Caterpillar, Inc., Case No. 07-1009 (C.D.Ill.); Will v. General Dynamics Corp., Case No. 06-698 (S.D.Ill.); Kanawi v. Bechtel Corp., Case No. 06-5566 (N.D.Ca.); George v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Case Nos. 07-1713 & 08-3799 (N.D.Ill.). Nolte v. Cigna, Case No. 07-2046 (C.D.Ill.).

About Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, LLP

Schlichter Bogard & Denton, LLP is a national law firm that represents individuals, including 401(k) plan investors, whose plans suffer from excessive fees or imprudent investment options. Its attorneys are dedicated to helping employees and retirees secure the retirement benefits they deserve. Anyone who has questions about the fees and investments in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan can contact Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, LLP toll-free at (800) 873-5297.

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Jerome J. Schlichter
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