Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Clark v. Duke University

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

June 24, 2019

DAVID CLARK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DUKE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants. KATHI LUCAS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DUKE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge, The plaintiffs seek final court approval of a settlement agreement with the defendants and dismissal with prejudice of two consolidated ERISA class actions. In February 2018, the Court granted preliminary approval, ordered settlement notice be sent to class members, and set a fairness hearing for June 18, 2019. No. class member filed an objection to the proposed settlement. After considering the record, the proposed settlement agreement, the supporting memorandum and exhibits, and the statements of counsel during the fairness hearing, the Court finds that the settlement meets the requirements of Rule 23 and is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Court will grant the motion and approve the settlement.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed Clark v. Duke University in August 2016, see Doc. 1, [1] alleging, inter alia, that defendants: (1) breached their fiduciary duties by causing the Duke University Faculty & Staff Retirement Plan to incur unreasonable recordkeeping expenses; (2) committed prohibited transactions by allowing four vendors to provide Plan recordkeeping services and receive Plan assets from which they retained unreasonable compensation; and (3) failed to prudently monitor Plan investment options resulting in the use of high-cost, low-performing funds compared to available alternatives. Docs. 1, 72.

         On May 11, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint. Doc. 48. The plaintiffs sought and were granted leave to file a second amended complaint in December 2017, Doc. 72, and later moved to further amend their complaint to add Count IX, which asserted claims of prohibited transactions and fiduciary breaches arising out of allegations that Duke used Plan assets to pay for Duke employee salaries and fringe benefits. Doc. 99. The Court denied the plaintiffs leave to file a third amended complaint on June 11, 2018. Doc. 107. As a result, the plaintiffs filed Lucas v. Duke University on August 20, 2018, asserting those claims against Duke that the Court denied the plaintiffs leave to pursue in Clark. See Complaint, Lucas, No. 1:18-CV-00722, Doc. 1 (M.D. N.C. ). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the claims in Lucas, which the parties briefed in full before reaching settlement and which was pending at the time of settlement. See Id. at Doc. 9.

The Court granted class certification in Clark on April 13, 2018 to a class of:
All participants and beneficiaries of the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan from August 10, 2010 through the date of judgment, excluding Defendants.

Doc. 96 at 21. The Court also appointed named plaintiffs David Clark, Thomas Mehen, Kathi Lucas, Jorge Lopez, and Keith Feather as class representatives and Schlichter, Bogard & Denton as Class Counsel. See Id. at 14, 21.

         In Clark, the parties have engaged in over two years of hard-fought litigation that included extensive motions practice, exchanging over 762, 000 pages of documents, and taking 7 expert and 20 fact depositions. See Doc. 160-3 at ¶¶ 20, 22, 25. While the Lucas litigation had yet to proceed to discovery, the formal discovery obtained in Clark led to the claims asserted in Lucas, and Class Counsel proffered that they would not need additional discovery to litigate these claims. See Doc. 99 at 1, 8.

         On November 29, 2018, the parties notified the Court that they reached a settlement in principle in both matters. See Minute Entry 11/29/2018. On January 16, 2019, after additional arm's length negotiations with the aid of a neutral mediator, the parties signed a detailed settlement agreement. See Doc. 149-2; Doc. 160-3 at ¶ 28. Plaintiffs then moved for preliminary approval of the settlement. Doc. 149.

         After requesting and receiving additional briefing from the parties, see Docs. 155, 156, the Court granted preliminary approval on February 7, 2019. Doc. 158. The Court also certified a settlement class of:

All persons who are or were participants or beneficiaries in the Plan at any time during the Class Period, including any Beneficiary of a deceased person who participated in the Plan at any time during the Class Period, and/or Alternate Payee, in the case of a person subject to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order who participated in the Plan at any time during the Class Period. Excluded from the Settlement Class are Kyle Cavanaugh, Tim Walsh, James S. Roberts, Rhonda Brandon, Steve Smith, Anders Hall, Richard Schmalbeck, Michael Lazar, Dr. Nan Jokerst, Erik Koehrsen, and Jean Shields. The Class Period is August 10, 2010 through the date of entry of this Preliminary Order.

Id. at pp. 4-5 ¶ 2. For settlement purposes, the Court appointed named plaintiffs Lucas, Lopez, and Feather as class representatives in Lucas, see Id. at p. 5 ¶ 4; Doc. 149-2 at p. 3 ¶ 2.12 (defining “Class Representatives”), and consolidated the Clark and Lucas actions. See Doc. 157.

         The Court ordered the appointed Settlement Administrator, Analytics, to notify class members of the settlement and how to object to the settlement terms. See Doc. 158 at 13-16. The Court permitted any class member to file objections no later than thirty calendar days before the fairness hearing scheduled for June 18, 2019. See Id. at 6, 16-17.

         The project manager at Analytics affirms that notice was emailed or mailed to all 58, 594 class members and was published on a settlement website. Doc. 163-3 at ¶¶ 5-6; see also Id. at pp. 14-47. This includes 10, 724 former participants and 47, 870 current participants. Id. at ¶ 5. Of those notices returned undeliverable, Analytics was able to identify corrected or updated addresses for all but approximately 2, 000 class members. See Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 7-8. Analytics also ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.