Retirement Benefits and Fiduciary Duties under ERISA

There is a nice and complimentary write up of this blog at Workplace Prof Blog, one of my favorite sources for a wide range of information related to employee benefits, including ERISA, such as this post on a petition for writ of certiorari arising out of a recent Ninth Circuit ruling concerning the fiduciary obligations of the administrator of an employee deferred profit sharing plan. The petition is itself interesting reading, and is available here (thanks to the efforts of the Workplace Prof), and details what the petitioner views as a split among the circuits on two specific points concerning the law of ERISA. The first is whether a plan participant can sue a fiduciary for breaches of fiduciary duty that harmed only a subset of a plan's participants and not the plan as a whole, while the second concerns the extent to which the administrator of a retirement plan can follow, or instead must decline to follow, a plan sponsor's directive that is not prudent from an investment perspective.

Tough choices that these types of cases present, as to where to draw the line between the sponsor's right to operate its plan and the protection that should be extended to the participants. Perhaps the question of whether the participant can protect herself within the structure of the plan, seperate from what the administrator or sponsor does, might act as a guide post on where that line should be drawn.