Welcome to the BlackRock 401(k) Retirement Plan Settlement webpage. This webpage is designed to keep class members informed about the class action settlement of Baird v. BlackRock Institutional Trust Co., United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 17-cv-01892.
If you received a class notice, it is because the records of the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan (the “RSP” or “Plan”) indicate that you have been a participant in the Plan and maintained an account with a positive balance at some point between April 5, 2011 and July 12, 2021. The Court directed that a Class Notice be sent to you because, as a potential member of the Class, you have a right to know about the proposed Settlement with Defendants before the Court decides whether to grant final approval of the Settlement at a “Fairness Hearing.”
The purposes of the Class Notice are to explain the action, the Settlement, and your legal rights, as well as to inform you of the Fairness Hearing to be held by the Court to consider the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the proposed Settlement.
The case involves the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan (the “RSP” or the “Plan”), a defined contribution 401(k) plan.
The lawsuit, filed on April 5, 2017, alleges that BlackRock violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) in connection with its use of BlackRock-managed funds as investment options in the Plan.
On September 3, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part the BlackRock Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint. Both before and after the Court’s order on Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Parties engaged in extensive fact discovery.
On February 11, 2020, the Court certified the BlackRock Plan Class, defined to include all participants (and their beneficiaries) in the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan during the Class Period of April 5, 2011 through the date of judgment or settlement. Thereafter, both parties moved for summary judgment and, on January 12, 2021, the Court denied both parties’ motions. This case was set for trial beginning on March 1, 2021.
On January 7, 2021, the Court referred the Parties to participate in a Magistrate Judge Settlement Conference facilitated by the Honorable Donna M. Ryu, United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of California. Judge Ryu conducted a settlement conference on February 5, 2021. The Parties reached agreement in principle to settle this action during that settlement conference.
On March 9, 2021, the Parties filed a notice of Settlement to inform the Court that they had reached agreement. On July 1, 2021, the Court held a preliminary approval hearing, and on July 12, 2021, the Court granted preliminary approval of the Settlement.
The BlackRock Plan Class
On February 11, 2020, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion to certify a class of participants in the RSP (the “BlackRock Plan Class”), defined to include all participants (and their beneficiaries) in the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan during the Class Period of April 5, 2011 through the date of judgment or settlement.
The Settlement resolves all claims against Defendants asserted on behalf of the certified BlackRock Plan Class.
Benefits to the Class
The Settlement Agreement provides for a $9.65 million contribution from Defendants to the Class. Plaintiffs are requesting attorneys’ fees not to exceed 29% of the $9.65 million settlement amount and reimbursement of the expenses they incurred in prosecuting the litigation, as well as service awards for the Class Representatives of $15,000 each. The Court will consider Plaintiffs’ request for attorneys’ fees and expenses, and for service awards to the Class Representatives, and the award of attorneys’ fees and incentive awards granted by the Court will be paid from the $9.65 million dollar settlement amount. The remaining settlement amount will be distributed to the Class in an amount proportional to the alleged losses suffered by each Class member.
The law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC and Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow, LLP represent the Class Representatives and the BlackRock Plan Class as court-appointed “Class Counsel.”
The Fairness Hearing will be held at 2:00 p.m. on October 21, 2021 before the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland, C.A. 94612.
Among other things, the purpose of the Fairness Hearing is to determine whether the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and whether it should be finally approved by the Court.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know whether I am part of the Class?
You are a member of the BlackRock Plan Class if you were a participant or beneficiary in the BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan during the Class Period of April 5, 2011 through July 12, 2021.
Q: What if I do nothing?
If you do nothing and you are a Class Member, if the Settlement is approved you will participate in the Settlement as described in the Plan of Allocation, which is Exhibit E to the Settlement Agreement.
Q: Can I exclude myself from the Settlement?
You do not have the right to exclude yourself from the Settlement. The action was certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) (non-opt-out class) because the Court determined the requirements of that rule were satisfied. Thus, it is not possible for any of the members of the Class to exclude themselves from the Settlement. As a member of the Class, you will be bound by any orders that are entered in the action for the claims asserted in the action on behalf of the BlackRock Plan Class.
Although members of the Class cannot opt-out of the Settlement, they can object to the Settlement and ask the Court to not approve the Settlement.
Q: How will the lawyers be paid?
Prior to the Fairness Hearing, Class Counsel will apply for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses, and service awards for the Named Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are requesting attorneys’ fees not to exceed 29% of the that $9.65 million settlement amount and reimbursement of the expenses they incurred in prosecuting the litigation, as well as service awards for the Class Representatives of $15,000 each.
To date, Class Counsel has not received any payment for their services in prosecuting this case on behalf of the Class, nor has Class Counsel been reimbursed for the out-of-pocket expenses they advanced in this litigation. The fee requested by Class Counsel would compensate Class Counsel for their efforts in achieving the Settlement for the benefit of the Class and for their risk in undertaking this representation on a contingency basis. The Court will determine the actual amount of the award.
Q: Can I object to the settlement?
The Court will consider written comments and objections to the Settlement, to the proposed Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses, and to Class Counsel’s request for Service Awards for Plaintiffs. Any objection to the proposed Settlement must be in writing and must: (a) clearly identify the case name and number (Charles Baird, v. BlackRock Institutional Trust Co. N.A., Case No. 4:17-cv-01892); (b) be submitted to the Court either by mailing it to the Clerk of the Court or by filing it in person at any location of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; and (c) serve copies of the objection and all supporting authorities or evidence to Class Counsel, Defense Counsel, and Defendants set forth below by email, with confirmation given of the receipt of that email, except that any notice or demand by any Class Member to the Parties under the Settlement Agreement need only be addressed to Class Counsel and Defense Counsel. The addresses for filing objections with the Court and for service of such objections on counsel for the Parties to this matter are as follows:
Clerk of the Court
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and United States Courthouse
1301 Clay Street, Suite 400 S
Oakland, California 94612
To state a valid objection to the Settlement, an objecting Class Member must provide the following information in the Settlement Class Member’s written objection:
- His/her/their full name, current address, and current telephone number, and, if represented by counsel, any of his/her/their counsel’s name and contact information;
- Whether the objection applies only to the objecting Class Member, to a specific subset of the Class, or to the entire Class;
- A statement of the position(s) the objector wishes to assert; and
- Copies of any documents that the objector wishes to submit in support of his/her/their position.
Any Class Members’ objections must be filed or postmarked on or before September 21, 2021. Any objections submitted by federal or state authorities must be filed no later than thirty (30) calendar days before the Final Approval Hearing.
If an objector hires an attorney to represent him, her, or them for the purposes of making such objection pursuant to this paragraph, the attorney must serve a notice of appearance on the attorneys listed above and file it with the Court by no later than September 21, 2021.
The Settling Parties may, but are not required to, serve discovery requests, including requests for documents and notices of deposition not to exceed two (2) hours in length, on any objector within ten (10) calendar days of receipt of the objection. Any responses to discovery or depositions must be completed within ten (10) calendar days of the discovery request being served on the objector.
Failure to serve objection(s) on either the Court or Counsel for the Parties shall constitute a waiver of the objection(s). Any member of the Class or other Person who does not timely file and serve a written objection complying with the terms of this Order shall be deemed to have waived, and shall be foreclosed from raising, any objection to the Settlement, and any untimely objection shall be barred.
Class Counsel may file a response to an objection, and serve the response on all Parties, no later than ten (10) calendar days before the Final Approval Hearing.
Q: What if my question is not listed here?
The Class Notice is posted on this website and has answers to frequently asked questions. Please review the Class Notice first to see if it answers your question. Further, you may contact Class Counsel with additional questions.
If you have any questions regarding the Settlement, please direct them to Class Counsel at (202) 848-1291 or via e-mail at BR401ksettlement@cohenmilstein.com.
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone: (202) 848-1291
Cohen Milstein’s co-counsel in this case are Nina Wasow, Esq., and Todd Jackson, Esq., of the law firm of Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow, LLP, 2030 Addison Street, Suite 500 Berkeley, C.A. 94704.
Please do not contact the Court. The Court personnel will not be able to answer your questions.