NYU Workers Can’t Bring Second Lawsuit Over Retirement Plans

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By Jacklyn Wille

New York University employees who challenged the school’s retirement plans in court can’t bring a new lawsuit against a slew of individuals on the retirement committee, a federal judge ruled.

The second lawsuit, filed about a year after the first, is duplicative and can’t move forward, a federal judge ruled. The judge said the second lawsuit was an impermissible attempt to get around her earlier rulings dismissing some of the employees’ claims. “Plaintiffs are not entitled to another bite at the apple simply because they have repackaged various claims and named more specific defendants within the NYU umbrella,” Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote.

The Feb. 23 decision came one day after Forrest declined to resolve the first lawsuit before its scheduled trial date in April. Both cases were filed by many of the same employees and challenge the fees, investment funds, and record-keeping arrangements of NYU’s retirement plans, which hold more than $4 billion in combined assets.

Since 2016, more than a dozen prominent universities have been hit with class actions over how they manage their retirement plans, and the original case against NYU is the first one of these to be certified as a class action. So far, the University of Pennsylvania is the only school to defeat one of these cases outright. Judges have allowed lawsuits to proceed against the University of Chicago, Cornell, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Vanderbilt.

A new case against Georgetown was filed the same day the NYU judge issued her order.

In dismissing the second lawsuit against NYU, Forrest wrote that the addition of new defendants didn’t create a separate and distinct lawsuit, because the defendants in both lawsuits had the same attorneys and were effectively controlled by NYU. The workers pointed out that the second lawsuit included new claims against Cammack Larhette Advisors, the NYU plans’ investment adviser, but the judge said these claims should have been brought by joining Cammack in the original litigation.

Schlichter Bogard & Denton LLP represents the NYU workers in both lawsuits. DLA Piper US LLP represents the NYU defendants. Nixon Peabody LLP represents Cammack.

The NYU case is Sacerdote v. N.Y. Univ. Sch. of Med., 2018 BL 60896, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-08834, order dismissing case 2/23/18.

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