Benefits & Executive Compensation News

Yale President Can’t Escape Deposition in Retirement Plan Suit

April 22, 2019, 5:19 PM

Yale University president Peter Salovey must sit for a deposition in a proposed class action challenging how the school manages its $3.8 billion retirement plan.

Salovey was “directly involved” in the decisions made by the school’s retirement plan committee that are challenged by the lawsuit, Magistrate Judge Robert A. Richardson said April 19. The plan investors can depose Salovey, but they must do so at his office and are limited to two hours, Richardson said.

The school fought to block Salovey’s deposition on the grounds that he’s an “apex witness.” Depositions of top-level executives like Salovey—called “apex depositions"—can be ordered only when the executives have unique knowledge relevant to the litigation, Yale argued. And Salovey’s knowledge of the school’s retirement plan comes largely from his brief tenure on a committee with other members who are also being deposed in this case, the school said.

Richardson expressed doubt as to whether Salovey had unique information, pointing out that he was one member of a six-person retirement plan committee and attended three committee meetings during the relevant time period. But Richardson declined to block the deposition altogether, saying Salovey was directly involved in the underlying situation driving the lawsuit.

Yale is one of at least 20 prominent universities to be accused by workers of retirement plan mismanagement. The parties are currently litigating over whether the case can be certified as a class action after a federal judge largely denied Yale’s motion to dismiss in 2018.

Schlichter Bogard & Denton LLP and Cohen & Wolf PC represent the Yale employees. Mayer Brown LLP represents Yale.

The case is Vellali v. Yale Univ., D. Conn., No. 3:16-cv-01345-AWT, 4/22/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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