Healthcare 401(k)/403(b) Plans: A Growing Target of Litigation

by Chris Tobe, CFA, CAIA

Floodgates are opening after US Supreme Court Northwestern 403(b)Case. [i] Most Hospitals not affiliated with public universities are subject to ERISA laws.  Hospitals tend to have a higher percentage of high fee funds and a much higher risk of litigation.

Why are hospitals at such high risk?  My take is that the 403(b) culture with its mix of ERISA and non-ERISA plans tends to have higher fee providers especially those associated with insurance companies.   My other theory is that Hospitals face so much litigation on health care issues that this litigation is not seen as material by senior management.  GAO recently did a report confirming that 403(b) s are not as sensitive to fees. [ii]

Here is the list of the 21 ERISA class actions I have found against hospital and health care 403(b)s and 401(k)s.  Columbus GA Regional Hospital, Aurora Health WI Iowa Healthcare, Henry Ford 401k , Henry Ford 403b, Spectrum Health, Mercy Hospital Health IL Kalenda NY Barnabas Health. Rush University Medical Center, MedStar Health  MD, Boston Children’s Hospital Corporation, Froedherdt WI,  B.Braun Medical Inc.PA, Allina Health plan, Emory Healthcare, Bon Secours.   Settlements I have found include Norton Ky ($5mm),  Southcoast MA Hospitals Group ($2mm), Bronson Healthcare ($3mm),  Novant Health ($32mm).

Many hospitals do not have independent consultants and one Lockton actually paid $2.5mm of the $5mm Norton Hospital settlement. [iii]  Many hospitals still use revenue sharing which is a magnet for litigation. [iv]  Hospitals are also high users of annuities. [v]

For most hospitals who have not paid attention and lowered fees already substantially it is only a matter of time before they face litigation.  Even larger physician groups will soon be subject to litigation as well.  Plans doing half fixes will not avoid litigation and some who have already settled may be sued a 2nd time.


[i] https://commonsense401kproject.com/2022/03/04/brave-new-world-how-hughes-v-northwestern-the-fiduciary-responsibility-trinity-and-the-active-management-value-ratio-are-changing-the-401k-landscape/

[ii] https://www.financial-planning.com/list/gao-study-examines-403b-plans

[iii] https://commonsense401kproject.com/2022/03/09/conflicted-401k-consultants-should-plan-sponsors-fire-them-sue-them-or-both/

[iv]  https://commonsense401kproject.com/2022/04/02/revenue-sharing-in-401k-plans/

[v] https://commonsense401kproject.com/2022/02/28/stable-value-the-goood-the-bad-and-the-ugly-avoiding-litigation/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s