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A 403b tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) plan is a retirement plan, similar to a 401k plan, offered by public schools and certain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. The following are some resources to help manage and administer your 403b.

This archive contains not only the most current material on the topic, but also older items that are still relevant, provide background, perspective or are germane to the topic.

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One Year to Go Until the 403b Restatement Deadline

Abstract: The one-year countdown to the mandatory 403b plan document restatement deadline is officially underway. All organizations that sponsor 403b retirement plans must restate their plan documents by March 31, 2020, using either the IRS's pre-approved document or an individually designed plan document.

Source: Cbiz.com, April 2019

Emerging Trends in 401k and 403b Fund Menus

Abstract: Given the shift in participant mindset and demographics, it's important for retirement plan committees to re-think the traditional approach to designing plan investment menus. Article discusses the strategic outcomes fiduciaries should be focused on when designing a fund lineup for their plan.

Source: Greenspringadvisors.com, March 2019

Understanding the Importance of Recent 403b Erisa Settlements

Abstract: If the 403b excessive fee litigation continues along a trajectory similar to its 401k predecessors, then we can expect the recent 403b settlements to usher in a new volley of suits brought against institutions overseeing slightly smaller retirement plans than the billion-dollar-plus plans at issue in the first wave of 403b cases.

Source: Thompsoncoburn.com, March 2019

2019 Compliance Checklist for Plans Subject to ERISA

Abstract: This compliance checklist incorporates defined benefit, defined contribution, and ERISA 403b requirements and provides information on the materials that you will need to file, filing due dates and agencies to which the filings should be made.

Source: Prudential.com, February 2019

IRS Asks for Comments Regarding 403b Plan Auto Enrollment

Abstract: The request regards information collection for Revenue Ruling 2000-35, which describes certain criteria that must be met before an employee's compensation can be reduced and contributed to an employee's section 403b plan in the absence of an affirmative election by the employee.

Source: Planadviser.com, February 2019

The 403b Hardship Distribution Which is Not a Hardship Distribution Under Proposed Regulations

Abstract: One of the more curious results of the failure of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to amend 403(b)(11) to provide for the same hardship relief that was granted to 401k plans is that the "hardship" distribution of 403b QNECs and QMACs aren't really hardship distributions. This has a very real practical and operational effect.

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, February 2019

IRS Provides Relief for 403b Plans That Improperly Excluded Part-Time Employees

Abstract: IRS Notice 2018-95 provides guidance on the "universal availability" requirement under the 403b regulations and announces a "once-in-always-in" (OIAI) interpretation of the section 403b exclusion for part-time employees. For sponsors that have not complied with that interpretation, the notice also provides operational relief, plan document relief and a fresh-start opportunity after the relief period ends.

Source: Willistowerswatson.com, February 2019

Georgetown University Defeats Retirement Plan Fee Litigation and "If a Cat Were a Dog, It Would Bark"

Abstract: The court dismissed most of the claims on the grounds that plaintiffs had not plead sufficient facts showing that they had individually suffered an injury. Because they challenged defined contribution plans, the plaintiffs had to plead facts showing how their individual plan accounts were harmed. In this case, the named plaintiffs had not invested in the challenged funds, or the challenged fund had actually outperformed other funds, or, in the case of the early withdrawal penalty from the annuity fund, the penalty had been properly disclosed and neither plaintiff had attempted to withdrawal funds; thereby suffering no injury.

Source: Employeebenefitsblog.com, January 2019

Have 403b Lawsuits Hit a Wall? Fifth University Wins Dismissal

Abstract: Losses continue to mount for university employees suing their schools over allegedly excessive retirement-plan fees. Georgetown University became the fifth defendant to successfully beat back such claims in court. Roughly two dozen lawsuits against universities for imprudent management of their 403b plans, which are defined-contribution plans for nonprofits, have been filed since August 2016.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), January 2019

403b Plan Sponsors Continue to Improve Investment Oversight

Abstract: Even among 403b plans not governed by ERISA, PLANSPONSOR DC Survey results show that in 2016, 54.3% of plan sponsors reported they have an investment committee for their plans; this jumped to 67.3% in 2017 and 67% in 2018.

Source: Planadviser.com, January 2019

Georgetown University 403b Plan Defeats ERISA Challenge

Abstract: In a colorfully worded opinion, the district court judge chides plaintiffs for failing to acknowledge basic facts about the way annuities work and their well-established role in 403b plans.

Source: Planadviser.com, January 2019

Relief for 403b Plans Regarding the Exclusion of Part-Time Employees

Abstract: The IRS recently issued transition relief for section 403b plans where the "once-in-always-in" (OIAI) rule under the universal availability requirement has not been correctly applied to part-time employees. As described in this article, the guidance provides broad relief.

Source: Groom.com, December 2018

Guidance and Relief for 403b Plan Sponsors Who Exclude Part-Time Employees

Abstract: In the spirit of the holidays, the Internal Revenue Service gave a gift to sponsors of 403b tax-deferred annuity plans on December 4, 2018, by issuing IRS Notice 2018-95. For plan sponsors that exclude part-time employees from their 403b plans, this gift provides a 10-year nod on their historical plan administration, despite noncompliance with the once-in-always-in part-time exclusion condition.

Source: Benefitslawadvisor.com, December 2018

403b Plan Snapshot Survey

Abstract: Plan sponsors are changing key governance practices to improve 403b plan performance and outcomes for employees, according to new findings from the latest Plan Sponsor Council of America survey report. The 13-page report highlights that changes are largely in response to litigation surrounding plans, the need to mitigate risk, recommendations from their advisor, and the normal course of plan governance.

Source: Psca.org, December 2018

IRS Provides Relief Regarding Part-Time Employee Exception to Universal Availability Requirement for 403b Plans

Abstract: The IRS issued Notice 2018-95 (Dec. 4, 2018), which provides relief regarding the part-time employee exception to the universal availability requirement for 403b plans. Specifically, the Notice addresses the "once-in-always-in" condition for excluding part-time employees from making elective deferrals under a 403b plan.

Source: Westlaw.com, December 2018

Ten Litigation Lessons for 401k and 403b Fiduciaries

Abstract: 401k and 403b plan litigation is not going away. If you are a plan fiduciary looking to avoid (or win) future lawsuits over fees and investments, there are lessons to be learned from recent decisions and settlements about the best ways to protect yourself in 2019. Here are some important takeaways from recent litigation activity.

Source: Cohenbuckmann.com, December 2018

403b Plans Offer Diverse Range of Investment Options

Abstract: The average large 403b plan subject to ERISA offered 27 "core" investment options in 2015, a joint research study released by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute has found. This report suggests that nonprofit employers sponsoring 403b plans recognize the importance of plan design and include features that will help attract and retain qualified workers.

Source: Ici.org, December 2018

A Close Look at ERISA 403b Plans

Abstract: This 68-page report analyzes 403b plans in the Department of Labor 2015 Form 5500 Research File. The focus then shifts to nearly 4,000 audited 403b plans in the BrightScope Defined Contribution Plan Database, which have at least $1 million in plan assets and typically 100 participants or more.

Source: Ici.org, December 2018

2018 Plan Year: Year-End Compliance Reminders

Abstract: Every year, plan sponsors must make sure their plans meet certain compliance requirements. This 5-page publication identifies the materials you need to review and will help you prepare for year-end. This information applies to qualified defined contribution plans and 403b plans that are subject to Title I of ERISA.

Source: Prudential.com, November 2018

New Regulations on Hardship Distributions: What Plan Sponsors and Administrators May Do Now and Must Do Later

Abstract: Many plan administrators of 401k and 403b plans permitting hardship distributions will want to implement some of the changes soon to take advantage of the liberalized hardship distribution standards, and virtually all sponsors of such plans will be required to amend their plans in the not-so-distant future as a result of these changes.

Source: Bradley.com, November 2018

Improving Retirement Savings for America's Public Educators

Abstract: The research finds that public employees who have access to retirement education resources at the workplace and the assistance of financial professionals are saving earlier and contributing more to their 403b plans and have greater confidence in being able to achieve their retirement goals. The report is being made available to school districts nationally to assist them in understanding how to improve 403b participation and savings rates to help employees achieve a comfortable and timely retirement.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, November 2018

Less Choice Leads to Lower 403b Participation, Study

Abstract: New research published by the National Tax-Deferred Savings Association confirms that a decrease in investment choice and reduced access to advisors leads to lower retirement plan participation by employees in public education 403b plans. The research is based on data from nearly 4,500 school districts across the United States.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, November 2018

Making Sure 401k and 403b Fees are "Necessary and Reasonable" - Part One

Abstract: As a plan sponsor, you are required to understand all of the fees that are associated your organization's retirement plan benefit program. This is a challenge because plan fee structures are often opaque, complicated, and downright misleading. The most effective way to meet your fiduciary requirement is a Request for Proposals process, typically run every three-to-five years. Why? The 401k and 403b markets are extremely competitive. They are constantly evolving and changing.

Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, November 2018

ERISA: Thou Shall Not Pay Excessive Fees

Abstract: With increased government scrutiny, ERISA lawsuits at an all-time high, and the plaintiff's bar not only increasing in number but in sophistication, 403b plan fiduciaries will continue to face high exposure if they fail to prudently select and then continue to monitor the investments options of their plans and plan fees. Litigation is not limited to large plans, as plaintiffs and the DOL have found that smaller plans are “low hanging fruit” in terms of finding ERISA violations.

Source: Ckrlaw.com, November 2018

IRS to Focus on 403b Plan Rules in 2019

Abstract: A Program Letter from the Tax Exempt & Government Entities (TE/GE) Business Operating Division of the IRS offers a heads up to what retirement plan sponsors can expect from the IRS in 2019. Included is an examination of 403b plans for universal availability, excessive contributions, and proper use of catch-up contributions under IRC Section 414(v).

Source: Planadviser.com, October 2018

Another 403b Plan Sponsor Beats Back Fee Lawsuit

Abstract: Washington University in St. Louis has won the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging it caused employees participating in the school's 403b plan to pay excessive fees for recordkeeping and investment management. Judge Ronnie L. White dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it can't be brought back at the district-court level.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), October 2018

Why Teachers' Retirement Plans Aren't Making the Grade

Abstract: While total costs for 401k plans hit an average of 0.88 percent, annuity-based 403b plans that are not subject to federal protections can have annual fees of around 2.5 percent. That's because while there's been a trend of falling fees and plaintiffs' lawsuits against too-costly 401k plans, public school teachers are dealing with a different saving regime. Here's what you need to know about 403b plans for public school workers.

Source: Cnbc.com, October 2018

Annual 403b Retirement Plan Survey: Organizations Adopting Best Practice Plan Designs

Abstract: Organizations that sponsor 403b plans are accelerating adoption of plan automatic features to improve plan design and participant outcomes, according to the 2018 403b Plan Survey from the Plan Sponsor Council of America. The report also confirms more organizations are working with advisors. This year marks the 10th year of the survey and significant trends have emerged over that period.

Source: Psca.org, September 2018

NYU v. Sacerdote -- Thoughts for Plan Fiduciaries

Abstract: Since 2016, participants have filed 19 lawsuits against universities over the fees charged to the universities' 403b plans. In the first of these cases to reach trial, New York University secured a complete victory when the court found that NYU did not breach its ERISA fiduciary duty of prudence. The court's decision provides some important takeaways for plan sponsors and the retirement committees that act as plan fiduciaries.

Source: Drinkerbiddle.com, September 2018

Fiduciary Best Practices Helped NYU Win ERISA Class Action

Abstract: District Judge Katherine B. Forrest's opinion in Sacerdote highlights the various fiduciary governance practices the NYU fiduciaries followed in making the decisions at issue in the case. This article summarizes the fiduciary practices and explains how they helped the NYU fiduciaries prevail at the trial level.

Source: Barclaydamon.com, September 2018

403b Sponsors Finding Success Beating Back Lawsuits

Abstract: Beginning in August 2016, law firms took aim at the ERISA 403b market. Many observers expected an even less favorable outcome for 403b sponsors, particularly given their seemingly ad hoc or patchwork plan design and largely unexamined practices of both sponsors and service providers. The early results, however, have been markedly less successful for the 403b plaintiffs.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), September 2018

Why Is Recordkeeping Pricing Different for 403bs?

Abstract: The price of recordkeeping services is not uniform; it can vary depending on type of retirement plan. This article discusses why pricing for 403bs is different than that for 401ks including four factors that impact 403b pricing.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, August 2018

Best Practices for 403b Plan Fiduciaries

Abstract: Plan fiduciaries of 403b plans face some unique challenges and making mistakes can expose these fiduciaries to liability. Following 403b fiduciary best practices can help reduce the risk of lawsuits and avoid ERISA compliance violations.

Source: Bsllp.com, August 2018

403b Loose Ends for 2019 Hardships

Abstract: While the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 modified the safe harbor rules for hardship withdrawals starting in the 2019 plan year, the extent to which these modifications will impact 403b plans is still subject to open to interpretation.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, August 2018

The Recent NYU ERISA Decision and Best Practices for ERISA Fiduciaries

Abstract: The decision in favor of NYU, and the recent dismissal of two other similar lawsuits against Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania, should give some comfort to fiduciaries of ERISA retirement plans, especially those sponsored by higher education institutions. The NYU decision suggests that 403b plans do not necessarily violate ERISA simply because they have a very large number of investment funds, including actively managed funds, or because they do not promptly remove underperforming funds from the plan.

Source: Bsk.com, August 2018

ERISA Fiduciaries Can Learn Lessons From NYU's Victory in 403b Fees Case

Abstract: The NYU's victory was the first to come after a trial, and the court's finding of facts and conclusions of law provide lessons for ERISA fiduciaries and not just those embroiled in their own fee cases.

Source: Greensfelder.com, August 2018

Court Finds in Favor of NYU in 403b Plans Lawsuit

Abstract: A federal district court judge found that "while there were deficiencies in the Committee's processes -- including that several members displayed a concerning lack of knowledge relevant to the Committee's mandate -- ;plaintiffs have not proven that the Committee acted imprudently or that the Plans suffered losses as a result."

Source: Planadviser.com, August 2018

Matrix Trust Company Accused of Making Unauthorized Transfers of 403b Plan Assets

Abstract: Plan participants have filed a lawsuit against Matrix Trust Company for making several transfers to an unauthorized account held by recordkeeper Vantage Benefits Administrators.

Source: Planadviser.com, July 2018

GWU Tells Court 403bs Cannot Be Compared to 401ks

Abstract: In a brief supporting a motion to dismiss a case against George Washington University related to the management of its 403b plan, the defendants note that 403bs have always looked differently and were set up for a different purpose than 401k plans.

Source: Plansponsor.com, June 2018

The Differences Between 403b and 401k Pricing

Abstract: 403b plans are fundamentally different than 401k plans. Many of these differences result in a greater amount of work required to administer 403b plans and more work equals more money. This article looks at a few of the major 403b plan price drivers that do not exist in 401k plans.

Source: Cammackretirement.com, June 2018

403b Plans and Puerto Rico

Abstract: Suppose your pre-approved 403b plan does not exclude residents of Puerto Rico, but your PPA defined contribution plan does. What do you do? Susan Diehl discusses what can be done in such a situation.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, June 2018

Top 10 Issues Found in 403b Plans

Abstract: Compiled from lists published by the IRS, DOL and auditors, here are 10 items to check and review to make sure your 403b plan is operating in line with IRS and DOL expectations.

Source: Qbillc.com, June 2018

Northwestern University Defeats 403b Lawsuit

Abstract: A federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois recently dismissed a lawsuit against Northwestern University alleging that the University and its fiduciaries mismanaged its retirement and voluntary savings plans. This is the latest decision in a series of class action lawsuits against prominent universities in which plaintiffs allege fiduciary violations of ERISA.

Source: Employeebenefitsblog.com, June 2018

Deadline Looming in the Distance for 403b Plans

Abstract: Last year when the IRS announced that the initial remedial amendment period for 403b plans will end March 31, 2020, the natural reaction to this very important (but rather remote) deadline was to immediately put it on the to-do list, somewhere near the bottom, where it has been languishing ever since. If this describes your reaction, it's time to move it to the front burner and take some action.

Source: Benefitsbryancave.com, June 2018

Northwestern University Beats Jerry Schlichter 403b lawsuit

Abstract: Northwestern University has become the second college to beat back allegations of retirement-plan mismanagement, prevailing in a lawsuit brought by prominent plaintiffs' attorney Jerry Schlichter.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), May 2018

Northwestern University 403b Lawsuit Tossed By District Court

Abstract: Defendants strongly prevailed with their motion to dismiss, and the Illinois District Court barred further motions as moot: The complaint was far too general in its scope and allegations to move ahead.

Source: Planadviser.com, May 2018

Paying "Reasonable" 403b Plan Expenses

Abstract: One of the perennial issues facing the sponsors, participants and fiduciaries of 403b plans, as well as the consultants servicing or advising such individuals or plans, is plan expenses. Section 403b plans, particularly those that are covered ERISA, must carefully watch what they spend with their limited resources.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, May 2018

University of Chicago Settles 403b Lawsuit for $6.5 Million

Abstract: The University of Chicago has agreed to settle a retirement-plan lawsuit for $6.5 million, becoming the first of about 20 prominent universities facing allegations over 403b-plan mismanagement to take such a step. Observers say it's difficult to determine if this is a harbinger of the outcome in the roughly 20 outstanding lawsuits.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), May 2018

The IRS Has a 403b MEP Problem

Abstract: There has been increasing interest in the market to put together Multiple Employer Plans for 403b plans, and with good reasons. Tax exempt entities are well suited to the sorts of economies of scale that a MEP can bring, and they often organize well around common associations. But a 403b MEP is really complicated when you get down to it because -- like anything 403b, it seems -- the devil exists in the details.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, May 2018

Third Parties Weigh in on 403b Litigation

Abstract: Three briefs were filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in support of the University of Pennsylvania and its Investment Committee. The briefs support the assumption that 403b plans have traditionally been managed differently than 401k plans, and as a result, they cannot be viewed in the same light with respect to litigation.

Source: Sentinelgroup.com, May 2018

The New 403b Plan Documents: Protecting Your Clients

Abstract: Less than two years remain until the date by which 403b plan sponsors which seek to self-correct plan provisions that violate the Internal Revenue Code can do so. An April 18 NTSA webinar discussed what some employers are doing to correct errors and make restatements by that date certain.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, April 2018

Brief in University of Pennsylvania 403b Lawsuit Points Out Differences From 401ks

Abstract: An amici curiae brief filed by the American Council on Education and other higher education associations details the history of higher education 403b plans. The Council points out that the retirement system for higher education has always looked different than the system for industrial, corporate America.

Source: Plansponsor.com, April 2018

Ignore Those Form 5500 Instructions: 403b Plans Do Not Use Form 5330 for Late Deposits

Abstract: One of the continuing confusions in how 401a rules apply to 403b plan involves the reporting rules related to the correction and reporting on the 5500 of one of the most common errors in any elective deferral plan: the late deposit of those deferrals into the plan. Neither non-ERISA or ERISA 403b plans will ever file a Form 5330. Ever. Even when the VFCP program is being used to correct the late deposit.

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, April 2018

The IRS's Gradual Shift on Applying 415 Limits to 403b Plans

Abstract: There is a little noticed change in the IRS's recent update of Publication 571 (which is the IRS's 403b technical guide). In a highlighted box on page four is a statement on how the limits on "annual additions" -- otherwise known as the 415 limits -- apply. This innocuous statement is pretty outstanding, finalizing a quiet morphing over a generation of the way the IRS applies a regulation in a way we rarely see.

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, March 2018

The IRS Has a 403b MEP Problem

Abstract: There has been increasing interest in the market to put together Multiple Employer Plans for 403b plans, and with good reasons. But a 403b MEP is really complicated when you get down to it because -- like anything 403b it seems -- the devil that exists in the details.

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, March 2018

Litigation Against 403b Plan Fiduciaries

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of 403b plans, discuss when such plans are subject to ERISA, review the key allegations raised in ERISA breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits, and discuss the status of these cases.

Source: Groom.com, March 2018

Audit Guidelines on Missing Participants and RMDs

Abstract: This memorandum directs EP examiners not to challenge a 403b plan as failing to satisfy the required minimum distribution (RMD) standards under Internal Revenue Code Section 403(b)(10) in the circumstances set forth.

Source: Benefitsforward.com, March 2018

IRS Extends RMD Audit Guidelines for Missing Participants to 403b Programs

Abstract: The IRS has extended to section 403b programs the audit guidelines for required minimum distribution failures due to missing participants and beneficiaries that were accorded in an October 2017 memorandum to "qualified plans."

Source: Us.eversheds-sutherland.com, March 2018

Basic Due Diligence for ERISA 403b Plans

Abstract: It is important for 403b plans to review, with their legal counsel, any fiduciary responsibilities they may have under state law. There can be benefit from having knowledge regarding ERISA and utilizing some of the provisions that would be beneficial to their plan. This article examines some basic areas for review.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, March 2018

Compliance Checklist 2018 for Plans That Are Subject to ERISA

Abstract: This 43-page Compliance Checklist incorporates defined benefit, defined contribution, and ERISA 403b requirements and provides information on the materials that will need to be file, filing due dates, and agencies to which the filings should be made.

Source: Prudential.com, February 2018

Georgetown University Hit With 403b Excessive Fee Suit

Abstract: The suit alleges that rather than "...leveraging the Plans' substantial bargaining power to benefit participants and beneficiaries, Defendants failed adequately to evaluate and monitor the Plans' expenses and caused the Plans to pay unreasonable and excessive fees for investment and administrative services."

Source: Ntsa-net.org, February 2018

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 Brings Changes for Retirement Plans

Abstract: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed into law on Feb. 9, 2018 and introduces some unexpected changes for retirement plans. The most significant of the Act's changes for retirement plans reduces the existing restrictions on hardship distributions from 401k and 403b plans.

Source: Icemiller.com, February 2018

Funds, Fees, and Annuities, a Guide to 403b Investment Options

Abstract: Unlike qualified plans under Section 401, 403b plans are restricted to only three investment options. This article discusses the differences between these three options (annuities, custodial accounts, and retirement income accounts) including their legal definitions, permitted investments, asset commingling, contract exchanges and transfers, distributions, excise taxes, and fees.

Source: Greensfelder.com, February 2018

Which Employees Are Eligible for a 403b Plan?

Abstract: This is a quick review of which employees are eligible for a 403b plan.

Source: Qbillc.com, February 2018

A (403b) Plan to Resolve Conflicts

Abstract: An employer with a 403b plan must have a written plan that identifies the plan's investment arrangements in order to satisfy the IRS regulatory requirements. But what happens if the terms of the 403b plan document conflict with the provisions of an investment arrangement identified in the 403b plan?

Source: Ntsa-net.org, February 2018

2018 403b Compliance Calendar

Abstract: This 403b Retirement Plan Compliance Calendar highlights critical compliance deadlines for defined contribution retirement plans. While we have covered all of the major dates, some may only apply to particular plan types (and are noted accordingly) and there may be additional deadlines for specific plans that are not covered here.

Source: Cammackretirement.com, January 2018

Transfers from a Non-ERISA 403b to an ERISA Plan

Abstract: Can a non-QCCO (qualified church-controlled organization) transfer assets to an ERISA 403b plan from a non-ERISA 403b that is part of a multiple employer plan and is not the lead employer in the MEP but a participating one?

Source: Ntsa-net.org, January 2018

Vanderbilt Can't Shake Suit Over Retirement Plan Fees

Abstract: Vanderbilt University is the latest school to lose an early round in litigation challenging the fees and investment options in its retirement plan. A federal judge on Jan. 5 largely refused to dismiss a proposed class action accusing the school of running a retirement plan with excessive administrative fees, too many service providers, and high-fee investment options.

Source: Bna.com (registration may be required), January 2018

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