In the case of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota v. Wells Fargo Bank (civil case no. 11-2529 (DWF/JJG)), the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota found that:
- The plaintiffs had withdrawn a claim of negligent misrepresentation, so that count was dismissed with prejudice by the court;
- Since the jury verdict found in favor of the defendant with regard to the counts of non-ERISA breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, intentional fraud, Minnesota Consumer Act Fraud and violation of the Minnesota Unlawful Trade Practices Act, the court dismissed these counts with prejudice; and
- Since the court tried the counts of ERISA breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and ruled in favor of the defendant, those counts were dismissed with prejudice.
The lawsuit came before the district court for a trial by jury on the claims of non-ERISA plaintiffs beginning in June 2013 and ending in August 2013. (ERISA is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.) The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, Wells Fargo, on the counts of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, intentional fraud, Minnesota Consumer Act Fraud and violation of the Minnesota Unlawful Trade Practices Act.
According to the court document, neither party in the case requested that the jury serve in an advisory capacity with respect to the ERISA plaintiffs’ claim. The parties agreed that “at the same time the jury hears the non-ERISA claims, the court would sit as the finder of fact for the ERISA fiduciary duty claims. For example, the testimony by experts and Wells Fargo employees will be relevant to the determination of liability by both the jury and the court.”
The jury then found that the defendant “did not breach a fiduciary duty to any of the six non-ERISA plaintiffs.” Therefore, says the district court, the jury responded to testimony and determined factual issues common to the plaintiffs’ non-ERISA and ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims, adding, “The court is thus constrained to render a judgment on plaintiffs’ ERISA claims that is consistent with the jury’s determination of factual issues common to both claims.”
This is not the first time that Wells Fargo has addressed, in court, the issue of misrepresentation. In November 2012, a Nebraska retirement fund filed suit against the bank with regards to misleading statements (see “Wells Fargo Facing Another Securities Lending Suit”).
The recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota can be found here.
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