Employee Benefits Plenary Session 4: Understanding the Impact of Hughes v. Northwestern University


The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Hughes v. Northwestern University that plaintiff-participants had pled sufficient facts to move forward with claims that plan fiduciaries violated ERISA’s duty of prudence regarding the plan’s investment options. Unfortunately, the Hughes decision did not provide much new as to how pleading standards should be applied in other cases, and some courts have subsequently reversed prior dismissals of breach of fiduciary duty ERISA class actions. This litigation environment impacts the types of investment options plan sponsors are likely to make available under Section 401(k) plans, and recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor suggests self-directed brokerage options may be subject to special scrutiny.

Learning Objectives:

After attending the session, you will understand:

  • How courts have been applying Hughes v. Northwestern University in recent 401(k) and 403(b) plan litigation
  • The types of breach of fiduciary duty claims that are more likely to survive a motion to dismiss
  • Steps that can be taken to reduce ERISA fiduciary risk in light of this litigation
  • Current perspectives from the U.S. Department of Labor and the employer community regarding self-directed brokerage accounts

Registration Information

8:30 am – 9:30 am (EDT)

Marriott Marquis
Washington, DC


Moderator: Andrew C. Liazos, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery

Panelist: Angel Garrett, Director, Trucker Huss, APC

Panelist: J. Christian Nemeth, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery

Panelist: Tim Rouse, Executive Director, SPARK Institute, Inc.

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