Our work spans all stages of litigation, including exposure analyses, motion to dismiss, class certification, merits and expert support, mediation and settlement, and trial. These matters often require understanding of industry details and analysis of large datasets involving millions of transactions. We have considerable expertise working with and evaluating individual account-level transaction data across a range of plans and service providers.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Jennifer S. Conrad

Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Distinguished Professor of Finance,
Kenan-Flagler Business School,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jennifer Conrad conducts research on investments and finance, with a focus on asset pricing, capital markets, institutional investing, and portfolio management. Professor Conrad serves as an expert on investment issues, market efficiency, loss causation, and damages in Rule 10b-5 and Section 11 securities class actions. She has extensive experience in ERISA matters alleging excessive fees and inappropriate investments, as well as class certification.

In her current work, Professor Conrad focuses on the relation between credit default swaps and the equity market, and the determinants and effects of high-frequency trading. Her earlier work concentrated on the causes of predictable patterns in returns and trading strategies related to these patterns, such as contrarian investing. She has written numerous articles on these and other finance topics, in publications including the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, and the Review of Financial Studies.

For more than two decades, Professor Conrad has taught financial management and investments to graduate and undergraduate students. She has won three teaching awards, as well as others for research and faculty mentoring. In addition to her research and teaching work, Professor Conrad served as the interim dean and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

A past president and board member of the Financial Management Association International (FMA), Professor Conrad also served as chair of the FMA’s Board of Trustees. She has also sat on the boards of directors of the Western Finance Association (WFA) and the American Finance Association (AFA).

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Steven R. Grenadier

William F. Sharpe Professor of Financial Economics,
Stanford Graduate School of Business;
Senior Advisor, Cornerstone Research

Steven Grenadier has testified as an expert in investments and derivatives cases in which he has addressed disclosure, suitability, and valuation issues. He has also testified in numerous ERISA matters involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, excessive fees, and inappropriate investments. Professor Grenadier has experience in analyzing market efficiency, price impact, Comcast issues, and loss causation and damages in Section 10b-5 and 11 securities class actions in federal and state courts.

Professor Grenadier specializes in complex financial asset analysis, and teaches courses on investments, portfolio management, and finance theory. His research focuses on applying option pricing theory to real investment analysis. Topics have included industry boom and bust cycles, real option signaling games, continuous-time stochastic games, valuing complex lease contracts, and commercial real estate equilibrium models.

He is also a senior financial economist with Financial Engines, and a former director of Nicholas-Applegate Institutional Funds, AQR Funds, and E*Trade.

Professor Grenadier is an editor of the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, and a former associate editor of the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control. He has also published articles in the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Empirical Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, and the Review of Financial Studies.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Laura T. Starks

George Kozmetsky Centennial Distinguished University Chair and Professor of Finance,
McCombs School of Business,
University of Texas at Austin

Laura Starks is an expert on capital markets; financial institutions; investment management; corporate finance; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Her research covers a range of topics related to asset pricing, mutual funds, retirement plans, and corporate finance. Professor Starks’s ESG expertise includes ESG measurement, climate risk, board diversity, and impact investing. She was one of the first professors to develop courses on ESG investing, which she has been teaching for the past ten years to undergraduate and graduate students.

In her expert testimony, Professor Starks has addressed a variety of allegations. These issues have included retirement plan fees, institutional investing, mutual fund management and fees, employee stock options, spin-offs, investment prudence, board prudence, ESG-related issues including corporate governance, securities lending, and information effects on financial markets.

Professor Starks currently serves on the Academic Advisory Board of FTSE-Russell, the Academic Network Advisory Committee for Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the Academic Advisory Board for AIF Global, the Academic Advisory Council for the Pacific Center for Asset Management, and the Advisory Board of Texas Wall Street Women.

For many years, Professor Starks was an independent director for CREF Retirement Accounts and TIAA-CREF Mutual Funds. She served on the Investment Advisory Committee for the Employees Retirement System of Texas, the Board of Governors of the Investment Company Institute, and the Governing Council of the Independent Directors Council. In addition, she has been a member of the Strategy Council and the Expert Panel for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world).

Professor Starks is the current president of the American Finance Association, and has also served on its board of directors. In addition, she has been president and a member of the boards of directors for the Financial Management Association, the Society for Financial Studies, and the Western Finance Association. Professor Starks previously edited the Review of Financial Studies, and has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Finance, Financial Management, and the Journal of Financial Services Research, among others.

Professor Starks has published her research in leading journals. She has received numerous awards for her research, including the 2021 Moskowitz Prize, the premier global prize for research in sustainable finance. Professor Starks is also an award-winning educator, and has taught courses in corporate finance and investments, among other topics. She presents her research at academic and practitioner events all over the world.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Pete Swisher

Independent Fiduciary and Consultant;
Founder and President,
Waypoint Fiduciary, LLC;
Managing Partner,
Group Plan Systems, LLC

Pete Swisher is a recognized expert on retirement plans and retirement plan governance. Mr. Swisher has extensive experience with fiduciary practices related to Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans, including the ERISA Section 3(16) plan administrator, trustee, investment manager, and named fiduciary roles. He also focuses on group programs such as multiple employer plans (MEPs), pooled employer plans (PEPs), association retirement plans (ARPs), group trusts, and similar bundled service arrangements.

Mr. Swisher has testified before or provided technical feedback to the Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Senate Finance Committee. He served as a subject matter expert for the American Retirement Association (ARA) with respect to the DOL’s 2016 “Conflict of Interest Rule—Retirement Investment Advice,” also known as the Fiduciary Rule, and the related package of prohibited transaction exemptions.

Mr. Swisher consults on a spectrum of issues arising in defined contribution plans, such as recordkeeping, administration, and investing, as well as industry issues such as product development and distribution strategies and methods. He has been retained as an expert witness in ERISA matters and testified in deposition.

A noted authority on retirement plans and their service providers, Mr. Swisher is the author of 401(k) Fiduciary Governance: An Advisor’s Guide, published by the ARA (third edition published 2012). He has published numerous articles in specialist publications, such as the Journal of Pension Benefits, the Journal of Financial Service Professionals, and 401(k) Specialist Magazine. Mr. Swisher speaks regularly at professional conferences on investment topics, the U.S. retirement system, and the fiduciary landscape.

A founding member of the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA), a subsidiary of the ARA, Mr. Swisher is also founding chair of NAPA’s Government Affairs Committee and one of the primary drafters of its first code of professional conduct.

As managing partner of Group Plan Systems (GPS), Mr. Swisher serves as an independent fiduciary and pooled plan provider. At Waypoint Fiduciary, which is a part-owner of GPS, Mr. Swisher consults to organizations on ERISA-governed retirement plans.

Previously, he was a senior executive at Pentegra, which provides retirement services, fiduciary outsourcing, and MEPs. Mr. Swisher is a former captain in the United States Marine Corps.

ERISA Capabilities

In ESOP disputes, we have addressed issues involving both private and public company plans. Our experience includes Department of Labor investigations, internal investigations, and class action litigation. Our work has included:

  • Assessing and analyzing third-party valuation reports
  • Evaluating transaction structures
  • Estimating damages
  • Rebutting opposing expert analyses

Since the beginning of 401(k) excessive fee litigation, clients have retained Cornerstone Research in numerous 401(k) and 403(b) fee and investment cases involving plan sponsors and service providers. We have consulted and provided testimony support on many of the most high-profile matters, addressing topics that include:

  • Investment management fees
  • Record-keeping and administrative fees
  • Investment performance
  • Asset allocation
  • Capital preservation funds
  • Target-date funds
  • Fiduciary prudence
  • Investment selection and monitoring
  • Plan structures
  • Damages
  • Settlement support

Cornerstone Research maintains an extensive database of ERISA company stock drop and ERISA fee and investment litigation, allowing us to provide relevant historical data on cases and settlements to our clients.

Cornerstone Research has worked on multiple cases involving multibillion-dollar defined benefit plans. Our experience covers:

  • Investment prudence
  • Investment strategy and performance
  • Use of alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity
  • Most-favored-nation (MFN) clauses and other fee disputes
  • Economic issues related to cash balance conversion plans

We have addressed forfeiture and vesting provisions in a range of deferred compensation plans offered by financial institutions. We also have considerable expertise in evaluating employee-level compensation and transaction datasets. Our casework experience includes:

  • Analyzing participant data
  • Reviewing and assessing compensation structures
  • Researching industry processes and labor market competition
  • Estimating damages

Our staff and experts have addressed liability and loss causation in litigation involving drops in the price of company stock offered in 401(k) plans. Our work in this area includes:

  • Addressing class certification
  • Analyzing market efficiency and potential impact of disclosures
  • Analyzing viability of companies
  • Analyzing sophisticated investors’ investments
  • Addressing issuers’ and trustees’ allegedly insufficient disclosures of risk factors
  • Assessing volatility thresholds
  • Analyzing performance benchmarks
  • Providing settlement estimates and damages analyses

Featured Cases

How can we help you?

For more information or assistance with a specific matter, please contact us.