NYU Retirement Plan Lawsuit Heads to Jury Trial as Professors Demand Justice

NEW YORK CITY, NY – A group of professors from New York University (NYU) is fighting for their retirement plan lawsuit to be tried by a jury, a demand that the university opposes. The professors initially accused NYU of mismanaging their retirement plans in a 2016 lawsuit, claiming that the university’s actions resulted in a loss of $358 million for the group. While a judge dismissed the case in 2018, an appeal partially reversed the dismissal, but affirmed that the professors had previously waived their right to a jury trial.

The lawsuit alleges that NYU violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 by including high-cost retail mutual funds with expensive fees in its retirement plans, instead of more affordable options. This summer, the group of professors filed an amended complaint, naming additional defendants and once again requesting a jury trial. NYU argues that the updated complaint simply aims to retry claims that the professors had already lost in the original suit, maintaining that the previous ruling against the plaintiffs’ right to a jury trial still stands. The professors, on the other hand, argue that NYU’s argument is “invalid.”

Retirement plan attorney Jerome Schlichter, who represents the plaintiffs, expressed that the professors’ request for a jury trial is unique because they have previously been granted jury trials by other courts. Schlichter believes that juries can better understand the significance of building retirement assets, as they may not possess the expertise of financial experts.

In 2017, the university had opposed the professors’ initial request for a jury trial, which was ultimately granted by the court. However, a bench trial was conducted instead of a jury trial, where the judge reviews the evidence and hears the testimony. The court ruled in favor of NYU on all claims. This decision was later partially reversed by an appeals court, which determined that one of the professors’ claims had been incorrectly dismissed. NYU attempted to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021, but the court declined to review the case without explanation.

The professors’ lawsuit against NYU is one of more than 10 similar lawsuits filed by Schlichter against various universities. A case against Northwestern University made it to the Supreme Court, where the court ruled in favor of the university’s employees. Professor David Bloomfield, an expert in education leadership, law, and policy, suggests that the resolution of the case may still face further delays.

It remains to be seen whether the professors will have their demand for a jury trial granted. Both parties continue to argue their positions, and a decision is not expected soon unless a settlement is reached between the two sides. The university declined to comment on the matter.