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Over 20,000 Cornell employees are represented in a lawsuit claiming that the University charged excessive retirement plan fees.

August 23, 2016

In Lawsuit, Employees Contend That Cornell Collected Exorbitant Retirement Plan Fees

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Cornell employees are filing a class action lawsuit against the University, claiming that fees for retirement plans are excessively high, according to a release from law firm Schlichter, Bogard & Denton.

The firm, based on St. Louis, filed Casey Cunningham v. Cornell University, et al. on Aug. 17 on behalf of over 20,000 employees at Cornell.

The suit claims that Cornell has violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by requiring retirement plan participants to pay millions of dollars in fees for administrative and investment services, according to the release.

The complaint also alleges that the University failed to consider more affordable alternatives to the current plan.

“We contend that Cornell University has breached its fiduciary duties to protect the retirement assets of its employees and retirees,” said Jerry Schlichter, one of the firm’s founders and managing partners, in the release. “The law is intended to protect the retirement assets of these university employees just as it is for employees of for-profit companies.”

Schlichter, Bogard & Denton has filed 20 similar complaints and secured nine settlements on behalf of employees in the past 10 years, according to the release.

The University will “vigorously defend” itself against the litigation, according to spokesperson John Carberry.

“Cornell University continues to responsibly manage its retirement plans for the greatest possible benefit to employees and retirees, and has been responsive to interests in having a reasonable range of funds available,” Carberry said.

Cornell has also been monitoring retirement funds through its Retirement Plan Oversight Committee, according to a University press release.

“The fees listed for funds that Cornell monitors are those that the University, using its leverage as major employer, has negotiated with TIAA, Fidelity and for Weill Cornell Medicine employees,” said Paul Bursic, senior director of benefits services, in the release. “These are the lowest fees possible, often at rates significantly below retail.”

RPOC meets quarterly to evaluate how the retirement funds are performing for their costs, the release said.

The University declined to comment further on the litigation.