Deere Workers Hit Fidelity with Excessive 401(k) Fee Suit

December 14, 2006 ( - At a time when retirement plan fees have become a hot-button issue, four Deere & Co. workers have sued Fidelity Investments over charges it levies unreasonable fees to manage the Deere 401(k) plan.

The suit against the Boston-based investment company charges that it assessed plan participants expenses that “were, or are, unreasonable and/or not incurred solely for the benefit of plan participants,” according to a Reuters news report. Fidelity is trustee and recordkeeper for the Deere plan.

The plaintiffs argue that administrative fees and expenses can depress plan returns and “even seemingly small reductions in a participant’s return in one year may substantially impair his or her accumulated savings at retirement.”

According to Reuters, the suit also charges that Deere and Fidelity were involved in a revenue sharing arrangement under which Fidelity shared with the customer some of the fees. The Deere employees said they were not told about the setup.

The plaintiffs have asked a federal judge in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to certify the suit as a class action so it can also represent thousands of other participants in the farm equipment maker’s 401(k) plan.

Spokesman Vin Loporchio of Fidelity told Reuters: “We disagree with many of the factual and legal assertions in the complaint and we intend to defend against the suit vigorously.”

Jerome Schlichter, whose law firm Schlichter, Bogard & Denton filed the Fidelity suit and has filed others against employer plans over 401(k) fees, was not immediately available to comment to Reuters (See Lawyer: Excessive Fee Suits Not an Organized Anti-Plan Campaign ).