A $150 million class action suit against Morgan Stanley alleges the firm mismanages its employees’ retirement funds by placing them in inferior products and charging excessive fees, according to a press release from the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
The suit, filed by attorney Charles Field for plaintiff Robert Patterson and 60,000 other current and former plan participants, accuses Morgan Stanley of investing its employees’ retirement savings in “funds that consistently underperform compared to other similar collective investment funds,” Field’s firm, Sanford Heisler, said in its press release. Morgan Stanley’s 401(k) plan has over $8 billion in assets, making it one of the biggest in the country, according to the press release.
The complaint also alleges that Morgan Stanley was at one point “self-dealing” by investing in mutual funds it managed itself without “thoroughly investigating” whether plan participants were better off with funds managed by third parties, according to the press release. One such fund allegedly performed at the bottom 10% among its peers, Field said in an interview with FA-IQ.
Furthermore, the suit alleges that Morgan Stanley charges higher fees in the plan than it does to outside investors in “like assets and similar investment strategies,” the press release said.
The suit, which targets Morgan Stanley, its subsidiaries and its board of directors, seeks $150 million in compensation for losses allegedly suffered as a result of the plan’s underperforming products and excessive fees, an overhaul of Morgan Stanley’s retirement plans in regard to the selection of investments and recordkeeping expenses, and the removal of the people overseeing the plan who the plaintiffs allege violated their fiduciary duty, according to the press release.
"It appears that Morgan Stanley was using the plan to promote their own mutual funds," says Field. "The result seems to be that if participants wanted to invest in a mid-cap growth fund, they had no choice but to select a fund that was performing as low as the 90th percentile."
Field, who also recently filed a class action suit against Columbia University’s 403(b) plan, says while this is not the first time a financial services firm has been sued by its own employees over retirement savings provisions, he believes it is the first case involving a wirehouse and its employees.
Last year in separate class actions plan participants filed suits against Allianz Asset Management’s and BB&T Corporation’s 401(k)s, while in 2013 both SunTrust and MassMutual were the targets of similar suits.
When approached by FA-IQ, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said the firm did “not have a comment” on the lawsuit.