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ERISA & Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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ERISA & Breach of Fiduciary Duty

If you participate in an insurance or pension plan through a private company, you are entitled to certain rights and protections. The company has a duty to be honest with its plan participants in all business relations, including their financial investments and standings. They should also avoid conflicts of interests, such as forming relationships or making deals that benefit them personally.

When such a company acts in a manner that is not in the best interests of the plan or its participants, or if they intentionally withhold information, they may be in breach of their fiduciary duty. ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims are best handled by an experienced ERISA lawyer.

What is ERISA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) applies to nearly all voluntarily established pension and health plans in the private industry. It sets the minimum standards that they must abide by and offers legal protections for participants in the plans. ERISA also outlines the fiduciary duties of those in charge of such plans.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Defined

A fiduciary duty is a gold standard of care. A person—or an entity such as an insurance or pension company—with the duty of acting in someone else’s best financial interests is the fiduciary, and the person owed the duty is known as the beneficiary.

When a fiduciary duty is breached, the fiduciary is accountable to participants in the plan to which their duty applied. The beneficiaries are legally entitled to recover damages, even if no harm was suffered.

Fiduciary duties for ERISA plan administrators include:

  • Running the plan in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries
  • Acting prudently to diversify the plan’s investments to minimize the risk of large losses
  • Following the terms of the plan documents
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest

When a fiduciary duty is breached, the fiduciary may be held personally liable to restore any losses suffered by the plan and to replace profits that were made via the improper use of the plan’s assets. Courts are allowed to take appropriate actions towards fiduciaries who are in breach of their duties, up to and including removal from their positions. Plan participants who feel there was a breach should speak with an attorney about ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims to pursue their available legal options.

ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

ERISA Enforcement Manual §502(a) allows participants, beneficiaries, and the Secretary of Labor to file claims for breaches of fiduciary duty. These claims can only be brought against individuals who were named as a fiduciary or who had discretionary control over the operation or administration of ERISA plans.

Common breaches include self-dealing in investing the plan’s assets, falling to appropriately fund a plain, failing to diversify the plan’s investments, misleading plan participants, and failing to carefully monitor other fiduciaries. Any claims centering around a breach of fiduciary duty related to an ERISA plan may be best handled by a qualified lawyer experienced in dealing with ERISA cases.

Getting Help with ERISA Fiduciary Duty Claims

If you have questions or need more information about ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims, contact our legal team today. We may be able to determine if your plan administrators are acting in accordance with state and federal laws. If not, your attorney could file a claim on your behalf and on the behalf of other beneficiaries to hold fiduciaries accountable. Call today to start exploring your options.

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