Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Pity the Poor Fiduciary, Trapped Between the Securities Laws and ERISA
One continuing theme in the posts on this blog is the replacement by plaintiffs’ class action firms of securities actions with ERISA breach of fiduciary duty actions in stock drop and similar type cases; the large class actions are brought on behalf of plan participants who hold company stock, often in an ESOP, against the plan fiduciaries. Such claims, for all intents and purposes, serve as independent securities type lawsuits against the company involved, through the guise of a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against the company’s designated fiduciaries, without having to meet all the rigmarole of a traditional class action securities fraud suit. I have posted often about this developing trend pretty much since launching this blog, and it has become a commonplace among other commentators as well.
Well, Georgetown law student Clovis Trevino Bravo has taken this line of thinking one step farther, authoring a detailed look at the advantages of prosecuting these types of cases under ERISA instead of under the securities laws, with a particular focus on the procedural and discovery advantages that accrue to the litigator who files such cases under ERISA rather than under the securities laws. Beyond that, she does an admirable job of synthesizing the often conflicting case law as to the intersection of the two legal regimes, providing an understanding of an evolving consensus - which is still a bit of a moving target, though, as she notes - as to the obligations of an ERISA fiduciary trapped between two separate lines of legal duty, that provided by the law of ERISA and that provided under the securities acts.
You can read her article in full right here, and you should - it will be worth your while.