LaRue Bows Out of Legal Fight

A Texas management consultant, whose lawsuit over 401(k) fiduciary breach allegations became the subject of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on participants’ legal rights, has apparently run out of money to fund further proceedings.

An agreement between James LaRue of Southlake, Texas and his former employer DeWolff, Boberg & Associates approved last week by a federal judge in South Carolina said LaRue had started pre-trial discovery after the case was returned to a trial court from the Supreme Court for proceedings on the merits of his claims.

In an order signed last week by Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Norton of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the court said LaRue “decided that it is not financially feasible to continue to pursue his claim.”

“Accordingly,” Norton wrote, “Plaintiff wishes to withdraw his claim and for this Court to dismiss this case.’ A request for comment to LaRue was not returned Thursday.

LaRue originally went to court to regain $150,000 that he charged was lost from his 401(k) account because the plan administrators twice disregarded his order to move funds to different investment options.

U.S. Supreme Court justices handed down a mid-February ruling eagerly awaited by the retirement services community that declared that defined contribution participants can bring fiduciary breach suits to recover individual damages (see Supreme Court Allows Individual ERISA Suits in Landmark Ruling). The LaRue finding became the basis of a series of related court cases in the following months (see Court Says LaRue Ruling Doesn’t Apply to ESOP Challenge).

In the October 21 order approving the settlement, Norton said that the legal statute of limitations has expired regarding the sequence of events LaRue claimed represented a breach of fiduciary responsibility under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) so “he would effectively be prohibited from refiling this lawsuit in the future in any event.”

The order dismisses the case “with prejudice”—a legal posture that precludes a case based on the same facts from being refiled. But Norton said, according to the settlement between the parties, LaRue can still go back to court for a new suit based on events taking place after 2002 if the new suit is not also past legal deadlines.

Neither side admitted any wrongdoing.

The order approving the settlement is available here.