Gearren, et al. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., et al., No. 10-792 (2d Cir. 2011)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Plaintiffs appealed from a decision granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiffs, participants in two retirement plans offered by defendants, brought suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that defendants acted imprudently by including employer stock as an investment option in the retirement plans and that defendants failed to provide adequate and truthful information to participants regarding the status of employer stock. The court held that the facts alleged by plaintiffs were, even if proven, insufficient to establish that defendants abused their discretion by continuing to offer plan participants the opportunity to invest in McGraw-Hill stock. The court also held that plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to prove that defendants made any statements, while acting in a fiduciary capacity, that they knew to be false. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.

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10-792-cv (L) Gearren v. McGraw-Hill Cos., Inc. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT August Term 2010 (Argued: September 28, 2010 Decided: October 19, 2011) Docket No. 10-792-cv (L) 10-934-cv(Con) 8 ------------------------------------------------------x 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 PATRICK L. GEARREN, JAN DEPERRY, MARY SULLIVAN, HARVEY SULLIVAN, and CYNTHIA DAVIS, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, -- v. -THE MCGRAW-HILL COMPANIES, INCORPORATED, THE PENSION INVESTMENT COMMITTEE OF MCGRAW-HILL, MARTY MARTIN, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MCGRAW-HILL COMPANIES, INCORPORATED, WINFRIED BISCHOFF, DOUGLAS N. DAFT, LINDA KOCH LORIMER, HAROLD MCGRAW, HILDA OCHOA-BRILLEMBOURG, MICHAEL RAKE, JAMES H. ROSS, EDWARD B. RUST, KURT L. SCHMOKE, SIDNEY TAUREL, JOHN DOES 1-20, ROBERT J. BAHASH, HENRY HIRSCHBERG, ALEX MATURRI, JAMES H. MCGRAW, IV, DAVID L. MURPHY, JOHN C. WEISENSEEL, KATHLEEN A. CORBET, PHIL EDWARDS, ROBERT P. MCGRAW, and PEDRO ASPE, Defendants-Appellees.* ------------------------------------------------------x B e f o r e : WALKER, CABRANES, and STRAUB, Circuit Judges. 34 Plaintiffs-Appellants appeal from a decision of the District 35 Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard J. Sullivan, 36 Judge) granting defendants motion to dismiss plaintiffs class- 1 2 * The Clerk of Court is directed to amend the caption as set forth above. 1 1 action complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief 2 can be granted. 3 offered by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. ( McGraw-Hill ), 4 brought suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee 5 Retirement Income Security Act ( ERISA ), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et 6 seq. 7 that defendants acted imprudently by including employer stock as 8 an investment option in the retirement plans and (2) that 9 defendants failed to provide adequate and truthful information to Plaintiffs, participants in two retirement plans As in the companion Citigroup case, plaintiffs allege (1) 10 participants regarding the status of employer stock. 11 that the facts alleged by plaintiffs are, even if proven, 12 insufficient to establish that the defendants abused their 13 discretion by continuing to offer Plan participants the 14 opportunity to invest in McGraw-Hill stock. 15 plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to prove that 16 defendants made any statements, while acting in a fiduciary 17 capacity, that they knew to be false. 18 We hold We also hold that AFFIRMED. Judge STRAUB dissents for substantially the same reasons 19 expressed in his dissent and partial concurrence in In re: 20 Citigroup ERISA Litigation, No. 09-3804-cv (2d Cir. [DATE]). 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 EDWIN J. MILLS, Stull, Stull & Brody, New York, NY (Michael J. Klein, Stull, Stull & Brody, New York, NY; Francis A. Bottini, Jr. Albert Y. Chang, Johnson Bottini, LLP, San Diego, CA, on the brief), for Plaintiffs-Appellants. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 MYRON D. RUMELD, Proskauer Rose LLP, New York, NY (Russell L. Hirschhorn, Proskauer Rose LLP, New York, NY; Howard Shapiro, Proskauer Rose LLP, New Orleans, LA; Floyd Abrams, Susan Buckley, Tammy L. Roy, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, New York, NY, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees. MICHAEL SCHLOSS, Senior Trial Attorney (M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor, Timothy D. Hauser, Associate Solicitor for Plan Benefits Security, Elizabeth Hopkins, Counsel for Appellate and Special Litigation, on the brief), United States Department of Labor, Washington, DC, for amicus curiae Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor. CAROL CONNOR COHEN, Arent Fox LLP, Washington, DC (Caroline Turner English, Arent Fox LLP, Washington, DC; Robin S. Conrad, Shane B. Kawka, National Chamber Litigation Center, Washington, DC), for amicus curiae Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. JOSEPH M. MCLAUGHLIN, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, New York, NY (George S. Wang, Agnès Dunogué, Hiral D. Mehta, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, New York, NY; Ira D. Hammerman, Kevin M. Carroll, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Washington, DC), for amicus curiae Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. 3 1 PER CURIAM: 2 Plaintiffs-Appellants Patrick L. Gearren, Jan Deperry, Mary 3 Sullivan, 4 themselves and a putative class of persons similarly situated 5 ( Plaintiffs ), appeal from a decision of the District Court for 6 the Southern District of New York (Richard J. Sullivan, Judge) 7 granting defendants motion to dismiss plaintiffs complaints for 8 failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.1 9 Plaintiffs, participants in two retirement plans offered by The 10 McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. ( McGraw-Hill ), brought suit alleging 11 breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income 12 Security Act ( ERISA ), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. 13 companion Citigroup case, plaintiffs allege (1) that defendants 14 acted imprudently by including employer stock as an investment 15 option in the retirement plans and (2) that defendants failed to 16 provide adequate and truthful information to participants regarding 17 the status of employer stock. 18 plaintiffs are, even if proven, insufficient to establish that the 19 defendants abused their discretion by continuing to offer Plan 20 participants the opportunity to invest in McGraw-Hill stock. 21 also hold that plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to 1 2 3 4 Harvey Sullivan, and Cynthia Davis, on behalf of As in the We hold that the facts alleged by 1 The district court consolidated for resolution two substantially identical complaints. All references in this opinion to the Complaint are to the complaint brought by plaintiffs Harvey and Mary Sullivan. 4 We 1 prove that defendants made any statements, while acting in a 2 fiduciary capacity, that they knew to be false. 3 BACKGROUND 4 This case was argued in tandem with In re: Citigroup ERISA 5 Litig., No. 09-3804-cv, which raised similar issues and which we 6 decide by separate opinion filed today. 7 plaintiffs are substantially similar to those alleged in the 8 Citigroup case. Plaintiffs are participants in one of two defined- 9 contribution retirement plans offered by McGraw-Hill: The facts alleged by the 401(k) 10 Savings and Profit Sharing Plan of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 11 and Its Subsidiaries (the McGraw-Hill Plan ) and the Standard and 12 Poor s 401(k) Savings and Profit Sharing Plan for Represented 13 Employees (the S&P Plan ) (collectively, the Plans ). Both Plans 14 are eligible individual account plans ( EIAPs ), 29 U.S.C. § 15 1107(d)(3)(A). 16 tax contributions from their salaries to individual retirement 17 accounts. The employees are then able to allocate the funds within 18 their accounts among a set of investment options. 19 managed by Defendant Marty Martin, who served as McGraw-Hill s Vice 20 President 21 administrator, and by the Pension Investment Committee, which was 22 responsible for selecting the investment options to be offered to 23 Plan participants. The McGraw-Hill Stock Fund (the Stock Fund ), 24 which was invested primarily in the Common Stock of [McGraw- for The Plans allow McGraw-Hill employees to make pre- Employee Benefits 5 and as each Each Plan was Plan s name 1 Hill], remained an investment option in both Plans throughout the 2 Class Period (December 3, 2006, through December 5, 2008), as 3 mandated by the Plan documents. 4 Plaintiffs filed their class action complaint on June 12, 5 2009, following a drop in the price OF McGraw-Hill stock from 6 $68.02 to $24.23 during the Class Period. 7 McGraw-Hill, Marty Martin, the Pension Investment Committee, and 8 McGraw-Hill s 9 defendants management of the Plans and, in particular, the Stock Board of Directors. The defendants are Plaintiffs challenge the 10 Fund. They allege that McGraw-Hill became an imprudent investment 11 option during the Class Period because its financial services 12 division, Standard and Poor s (S&P), knowingly provided inflated 13 ratings to financial products linked to the subprime-mortgage 14 market. 15 plaintiffs allege, led to the sharp drop in the price of McGraw- 16 Hill stock. The public s discovery of these ratings practices, 17 Count I of plaintiffs complaint alleges that the defendants 18 breached their fiduciary duties by continuing to offer the Stock 19 Fund as an investment option in the Plans throughout the Class 20 Period, while McGraw-Hill s true adverse financial and operating 21 condition was being concealed. 22 that the defendants violated their duty of loyalty by making 23 misrepresentations regarding McGraw-Hill s 24 financial condition and S&P s ratings practices. Compl. ¶ 93. and Compl. ¶ 86. nondisclosures 6 Count II alleges 1 Counts III and IV are, in substance, derivative of Counts I and II. 2 Count III alleges that the defendants violated their duty of 3 loyalty by acting in their own interests rather than solely in the 4 interests of the Plans participants. 5 Count IV alleges that the Board of Director defendants failed to 6 properly appoint, monitor, and inform the members of the Pension 7 Investment Committee. 8 9 Compl. ¶ 102. Finally, On February 10, 2010, the district court granted in full defendants motion to dismiss. See Gearren v. McGraw-Hill Cos., 10 Inc., 690 F. Supp. 2d 254 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). 11 I, the district court held that the defendants were entitled to a 12 presumption that their decision to offer the Stock Fund as an 13 investment option was prudent. 14 alleged by plaintiffs were, if proven, insufficient to overcome the 15 presumption. 16 finding that the defendants had no affirmative duty to disclose 17 McGraw-Hill s financial position to Plan participants and that any 18 alleged 19 capacity as ERISA fiduciaries. Id. at 271-73. The court dismissed 20 Counts III and IV because they depended on the success of Counts I 21 and II. 22 23 Id. at 265-70. misrepresentations With respect to Count The court concluded that the facts The court also rejected Count II, were not made in the defendants Id. at 273. Plaintiffs now appeal from the district court s judgment dismissing the complaint. 24 7 1 DISCUSSION 2 We review de novo the district court s dismissal under 3 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Gallop v. Cheney, 642 4 F.3d 364, 368 (2d Cir. 2011). 5 a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 6 true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its 7 face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting 8 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 9 consider each of plaintiffs claims in turn and conclude that To survive a motion to dismiss, 10 plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for relief. 11 I. 12 We Investment Option Count I: Inclusion of the McGraw-Hill Stock Fund as an 13 Plaintiffs first argue that the district court erred by 14 dismissing their claims that the defendants acted imprudently by 15 continuing to allow plan participants to invest in McGraw-Hill 16 stock during the Class Period. 17 the companion Citigroup opinion, we adopt the Moench presumption 18 and review defendants decision to continue to allow Plan 19 participants to invest in employer stock, in accordance with the 20 Plans terms, for an abuse of discretion. 21 Robertson, 62 F.3d 553, 571 (3d Cir. 1995) ( [A]n ESOP fiduciary 22 who invests the assets in employer stock is entitled to a 23 presumption that it acted consistently with ERISA by virtue of 24 that decision. ). We disagree. As we explain in See Moench v. Plan fiduciaries are only required to divest 8 1 an EIAP or ESOP of employer stock where the fiduciaries know or 2 should know that the employer is in a dire situation. 3 Avaya, Inc., 503 F.3d 340, 348 (3d Cir. 2007). 4 fluctuations, even those that trend downward significantly, are 5 insufficient to establish the requisite imprudence to rebut the 6 presumption. 7 1099 (9th Cir. 2004). 8 Edgar v. Mere stock Wright v. Or. Metallurgical Corp., 360 F.3d 1090, Here, we agree with the district court that even if we 9 assume that plaintiffs allegations are proved, plaintiffs are 10 unable to establish that defendants knew or should have known 11 that McGraw-Hill was in a dire situation. 12 allegations relate entirely to operations within the Credit 13 Market Services group of S&P, which is one of McGraw-Hill s three 14 operating segments. 15 Credit Market Services provided inflated ratings to two 16 structured-finance products: 17 residential mortgage backed securities. 18 fiduciaries were aware of these problems in the Credit Market 19 Services group of S&P, the facts alleged do not support 20 plaintiffs contention that defendants should have determined 21 that McGraw-Hill itself was in a dire situation. 22 could not reasonably have foreseen, based on the information 23 alleged to have been available to them at the time, the sharp 24 decline in the price of McGraw-Hill stock that occurred after the Plaintiffs More specifically, plaintiffs allege that collateralized debt obligations and 9 Even if the defendant Defendants 1 problems with S&P s ratings practices become public. 2 they were not compelled to conclude that McGraw-Hill was in the 3 kind of dire situation that would have required them to limit 4 participants investments in the Stock Fund. 5 II. 6 Moreover, Count II: Misstatements and Omissions Plaintiffs also allege that defendants breached their 7 fiduciary duty of loyalty both by failing to disclose information 8 about McGraw-Hill s financial condition to Plan participants and 9 by making false or misleading statements about McGraw-Hill to the 10 participants. 11 reject the argument that fiduciaries have a duty to disclose 12 nonpublic information about the expected performance of the 13 employer s stock. 14 for relief based on defendants failure to disclose to 15 participants information regarding S&P s rating practices and, 16 more generally, McGraw-Hill s financial strength. 17 In the Citigroup opinion, we explained why we Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot state a claim Plaintiffs claims that defendants made false or misleading 18 statements or omissions regarding McGraw-Hill stock also cannot 19 survive defendants motion to dismiss. 20 or misleading statements identified by defendants are those 21 contained in SEC filings that were later incorporated into the 22 Plans Summary Plan Descriptions ( SPDs ). 23 holds fiduciaries liable to the extent that they were acting as 24 a fiduciary . . . when taking the action subject to the 10 The only specific false ERISA, however, only 1 complaint. 2 defendants who signed or prepared the SEC filings were acting in 3 a corporate, rather than ERISA fiduciary, capacity when they did 4 so. 5 (5th Cir. 2008) (defendants were not acting in anything other 6 than a corporate capacity when preparing SEC filings). 7 Therefore, in the circumstances presented here, these defendants 8 may not be held liable under ERISA for misstatements contained in 9 the SEC filings. 10 Pegram v. Herdrich, 530 U.S. 211, 226 (2000). Here, See Kirschbaum v. Reliant Energy, Inc., 526 F.3d 243, 257 Plaintiffs also argue that because the Plans SPDs 11 incorporated the SEC filings, the SPDs contained the same 12 misstatements as the SEC filings. 13 Plans administrator, was responsible for distributing the SPDs 14 to participants. 15 fiduciary may be held liable for false or misleading statements 16 when the fiduciary knows those statements are false or lack a 17 reasonable basis in fact. 18 78, 84 (2d Cir. 2001). 19 allegations as to how Martin knew or should have known that S&P s 20 rating practices were improper or that, consequently, the SEC 21 filings contained misstatements or omissions. 22 do allege in conclusory fashion that all of the defendants knew 23 or should have known of the material misrepresentations 24 contained in the SEC filings, Compl. ¶ 48, they provide no basis Defendant Marty Martin, as the 29 U.S.C. § 1021(a)(1). We have held that a Flanigan v. Gen. Elec. Co., 242 F.3d Plaintiffs have not provided any specific 11 While plaintiffs 1 for this conclusion, especially as it is applied to Martin, who 2 served as McGraw-Hill s Vice President for Employee Benefits. 3 Accordingly, plaintiffs have not adequately alleged that Martin 4 made any intentional or knowing misstatements to Plan 5 participants by incorporating SEC filings into the SPDs. 6 III. Plaintiffs Remaining Claims 7 Finally, plaintiffs allege both that defendants failed to 8 manage the Plans solely in the interests of the Participants 9 and that the Board of Director defendants failed to properly 10 appoint, monitor, and inform the members of the Plans Pension 11 Investment Committee about the condition of McGraw-Hill stock. 12 Compl. ¶¶ 103, 109. 13 court, plaintiffs have conceded that these secondary claims fail 14 if plaintiffs are unable to survive Rule 12(b)(6) as to their 15 primary claims, addressed above. 16 Inc., 690 F. Supp. 2d 254, 273 (S.D.N.Y. 2010); Plaintiffs- 17 Appellants Brief at 50. 18 court s dismissal of plaintiffs theories of secondary liability. 19 CONCLUSION 20 We have Before both the district court and this carefully Gearren v. McGraw-Hill Cos., Accordingly, we affirm the district considered all of appellants other 21 arguments and found them to be without merit. 22 23 24 reasons, the judgment of the district court is hereby affirmed. 12 For the foregoing