Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, as Administrator of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Pension Equity Plan; CentraCare Health System, on Behalf of Itself and the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict Retirement Plan; Supplemental Benefit Committee of the International Truck and Engine Corp. Retiree Supplemental Benefit Trust, as Administrator of the International Truck and Engine Corp. Retiree Supplemental Benefit Trust; Jerome Foundation; Meijer, Inc., as Administrator of the Meijer OMP Pension Plan and Meijer Hourly Pension Plan, Participants in the Meijer Master Pension Trust; Nebraska Methodist Health System, Inc., on Behalf of Itself, and as Administrator of the Nebraska Methodist Hospital Foundation, the Nebraska Methodist Health System Retirement Account Plan, and the Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital Employee Retirement Plan; North Memorial Health Care; The Order of Saint Benedict, as the St. John's University Endowment and the St. John's Abbey Endowment; The Twin Cities Hospitals-Minnesota Nurses Association Pension Plan Pension Committee, as Administrator of the Twin Cities Hospitals-Minnesota Nurses Association Pension Plan, Plaintiffs,
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Defendant.
Michael V. Ciresi, Esq., Munir R. Meghjee, Esq., Stephen F. Simon, Esq., Vincent J. Moccio, Esq., and Brock J. Specht, Esq., Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi LLP, counsel for Plaintiffs.
Lawrence T. Hofmann, Esq., Michael R. Cashman, Esq., Daniel J. Millea, Esq., James S. Reece, Esq., Lindsey A. Davis, Esq., Richard M. Hagstrom, Esq., and Rory D. Zamansky, Esq., Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP; Brooks F. Poley, Esq. and William A. McNab, Esq., Winthrop & Weinstine, PA, counsel for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s ("Wells Fargo") Motion for Bench Trial of ERISA and Non-ERISA Fiduciary Duty Claims (Doc. No. 297). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.
Plaintiffs are a group of institutional investors who participated in Wells Fargo's Securities Lending Program ("SLP") and suffered substantial losses during the course of their participation in the SLP. (Doc. No. 200, Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-24.) This action stems from Wells Fargo's purported improper and imprudent investment of Plaintiffs' funds. As such, Plaintiffs assert the following claims against Wells Fargo: (1) Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Non-ERISA and ERISA); (2) Breach of Contract; (3) Intentional and Reckless Fraud and Fraudulent Nondisclosure/Concealment; (4) Negligent Misrepresentation; (5) Violation of Minnesota Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act Minn. Stat. §§ 325F.69 and 8.31; (6) Unlawful Trade PracticesMinn. Stat. §§ 325D.13 and 8.31; and (7) Deceptive Trade PracticesMinn. Stat. §§ 325D.44 and 8.31. ( Id. ¶¶ 256-328.)
The factual background of this matter is set out in this Court's previous Orders and is incorporated by reference herein. Wells Fargo now moves for a bench trial of Plaintiffs' fiduciary duty claims.
I. Legal Standard
The Seventh Amendment provides that "[i]n Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved...." U.S. CONST. amend. VII. "Suits at common law" refers to suits in which legal rights are to be ascertained and determined, in contradistinction to those where equitable rights alone are recognized, and equitable remedies are administered. Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, 41 (1989).
To determine whether a particular suit falls within the ambit of the Seventh Amendment, courts must apply a two-step test. Id. at 42. A court must first compare the action before it "to 18th-century actions brought in the courts of England prior to the merger of the courts of law and equity"; second, the court must "examine the remedy sought and determine whether it is legal or equitable in nature." Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers, Local No. 391 v. Terry, 494 U.S. 558, 565 (1990). The second inquiry is the more important in the analysis. Id. ; see also Tull v. United States, 481 U.S. 412, 421 (1987) ("We reiterate our previously expressed view that characterizing the relief sought is more important than finding a precisely analogous common-law cause of action in determining whether the Seventh Amendment guarantees a jury trial.").
Still, the right of a trial by jury at common law is a fundamental, constitutional right. Jacob v. City of New York, 315 U.S. 752, 752-53 (1942). As such, any seeming curtailment of the right to a jury trial must be scrutinized with the utmost care. Halladay v. Verschoor, 381 F.2d 100, 109 (8th Cir. 1967), ...