As reported by Law360, a pretrial hearing in Tennessee has resulted in a victory for the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) and its retirement plan managers. The judge preserved many state law allegations, including those related to AMEC’s failure to monitor the church plan’s retirement plan manager, Rev. Dr. Jerome Harris, for roughly 20 years. The judge also denied motions to dismiss Tennessee state law claims for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence against financial providers Newport Group and Symetra Financial Corp.

The proposed class alleges that Harris initiated a long-running conspiracy to embezzle plan funds and defraud plaintiffs, starting in 2001. This included establishing business organizations to further his allegedly fraudulent activities with the help of co-conspirators. It is believed that between $80 million and $90 million in assets could not be accounted for.

Plaintiffs’ counsel provided a statement to Law360 about the procedural achievements. “Not only did Judge Anderson largely rule in our favor, he expressly didn’t consider our best evidence because it was uncovered after the complaint was filed. We continue to find documents showing that Newport and Symetra knew our pastors’ retirement funds were being misappropriated, or even outright stolen, and had their own concerns about that. But they never told anyone who could’ve stopped it. This order is an important step towards achieving justice for our clients, the AME Church ministers.”

Learn more about the AMEC retirement plan class action lawsuit.

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