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ERISA Claims in Cassell v. Vanderbilt University

By Neal Shikes

Managing Partner, The Trusted Fiduciary

Neal J. Shikes is Managing Partner of The Trusted Fiduciary and has 30 years of experience in the Financial Services Industry and an expansive network. He is an Affiliate Expert Witness Professional of EWCS.

Expert Witness Consulting Services Affiliate Neal Shikes of the recently wrote an article for PlanSponsor regarding the latest ERISA claims in the Cassell v. Vanderbilt University lawsuit.

Neal reports that, “Most of the coverage on Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) class actions has been focused on settlements or dismissals. Sometimes, however, the most telling detail and the true value to participants in settlement agreements is in the nonmonetary terms. Ironically, the nonmonetary relief is a methodology modification.

Look at two claims in the case of Cassell v. Vanderbilt University.

Breach of fiduciary duty of prudence: The plan sponsor/investment committee did not apply a viable methodology to choose and review recordkeepers.

Plan sponsors/investment committee members must develop and evidence a methodology to choose and review recordkeepers. Like choosing investments, recordkeepers must be chosen with participant best interests in mind. The Vanderbilt settlement agreement mandates that the school’s retirement plan committee must request recordkeeping proposals that include what the fees are on a per-participant basis. It seems like a viable methodology would attempt to decouple recordkeeping costs from asset size, especially if no additional services are provided. Given the size of the plan, one would think this should have been part of its methodology in the first place…”

Read from the full article published on October 22, 2019 on

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