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Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Most private insurance and pension plans are required to adhere to ERISA laws. One of these laws in particular addresses the responsibilities and potential breaches of those in charge of the plan’s financial assets referred to as fiduciaries.

Even though these are private plans, fiduciaries are accountable under the law to their plan members and beneficiaries. They are charged with acting in the best interest of those involved in the plan, avoiding conflicts of interest, and not making decisions for their own financial gain. When fiduciaries break the law, their actions can lead to breach of fiduciary duty insurance claims. In order to learn more, individuals should meet with a knowledgeable bad faith lawyer that could answer their questions.

Defining ERISA Plans and Fiduciaries

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974—ERISA for short—sets minimum standards for most private benefit plans and protects plan participants. Congress has given the Department of Labor (DOL) authority to regulate ERISA. However, it is important to note that ERISA does not cover religious or government-sponsored insurance or pension plans.

A fiduciary is any person who exercises discretionary authority over the assets of an ERISA plan, charges for investment advice in regards to the assets of the plan, or has any discretionary authority in the administration of the plan. However, the DOL has stated that for the purpose of fiduciary liability under ERISA, stockbrokers are not inherently considered investment advisors.

Claims for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

With institutionally sponsored ERISA plans spreading, the importance of fiduciary provisions in ERISA law grows. Under ERISA §502(a), plan members, beneficiaries, and the Secretary of Labor have the right to file claims for breaches of fiduciary duty.

However, only named fiduciaries or parties who had discretionary control over the operation or administration of the ERISA plan can have claims for breach of fiduciary duty filed against them. Specifically, ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims usually center around one or more of the following actions:

  • Self-dealing in investing the plan’s assets
  • Failing to appropriately fund a plan
  • Failing to diversify the plan’s investments
  • Misleading plan participants about aspects of the plan
  • Failing to carefully monitor other fiduciaries

ERISA laws specifically state that plan fiduciaries shall act only in the interest of the plan participants and beneficiaries. If they do not, they have breached their fiduciary duty. Fiduciaries who breach any portion of their duties under ERISA statutes have a personal liability to make up to the plan any losses incurred or profits ill-gained as a result of their breach.

Holding Fiduciaries Accountable for Breach of Fiduciary Duty in ERISA Claims

ERISA fiduciaries are typically entrusted with millions of dollars in assets that belong to plan members. As such, they should be and are held to extremely high standards under ERISA laws, and they should face consequences if they do not meet these standards.

A dedicated lawyer could work with you to hold the fiduciaries of your ERISA plan accountable for their actions. If you believe that the administrator or someone else in charge of your ERISA plan has not been upholding their fiduciary responsibilities outlined under ERISA, call today to learn more about your legal rights and options for ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims.

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