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NEW YORK-A suit against John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. charging that it mismanaged assets of Unisys Corp.'s pension plan will proceed to trial after the insurer failed to reopen an issue that would have postponed the action.

Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court in New York denied a pretrial motion by Hancock in Harris Trust & Savings Bank vs. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. that would have reconsidered the issue of the insurer's fiduciary status under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Had Judge Chin ruled otherwise, "the case would have been as a practical matter over," said Harris Trust's attorney, Lawrence Kill of Anderson Kill & Olick in New York.

In his decision, Judge Chin noted that both a federal appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court have already ruled that Hancock was an ERISA fiduciary with respect to the non-guaranteed assets in the group annuity contract that is the focus of the litigation (BI, Dec. 20, 1993; Aug. 10, 1992).

The trial is set for July 22.