On Monday, October 29, the Supreme Court declined a petition for certiorari from a Third Circuit decision in Santomenno v. John Hancock Life Insurance Company in which Ms. Santomenno and her fellow former plan beneficiaries brought claims against John Hancock under ERISA and the ICA, claiming that John Hancock charged their retirement plans excessive fees on annuity insurance contracts offered to plan participants.
John Hancock had asked the court to overturn the Third Circuit’s ruling allowing the ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claim to go forward, despite the fact that the ERISA plan trustees were never given a pre-suit demand. The Eleventh Circuit has ruled that plan participants have to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing an ERISA lawsuit.
On the other side of the matter, the Third Circuit had dismissed the plaintiffs’ ICA claim, because the plaintiffs were no longer investors in the funds at issue. The investors had likewise petitioned for review of that issue, arguing that the Third Circuit’s decision conflicted with an earlier ruling from the Seventh Circuit.
The case will return to District Court in the District of New Jersey, where John Hancock has until December 14 to respond to the plaintiffs’ ERISA claim.