Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248, 3 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

et seq., is liable for losses that an employee benefit plan suffers as a result of the breach.


According to the complaint, the allegations of which we take as true, petitioners represent a class of former employees of the Kaiser Steel Corporation (Kaiser) who participated in the Kaiser Steel Retirement Plan, a qualified pension plan under ERISA. Respondent was the plan's actuary in 1980, when Kaiser began to phase out its steelmaking operations, prompting early retirement by a large number of plan participants. Respondent did not, however, change the plan's actuarial assumptions to reflect the additional costs imposed by the retirements. As a result, Kaiser did not adequately fund the plan, and eventually the plan's assets became insufficient to satisfy its benefit obligations, causing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to terminate the plan pursuant to 29 U. S. C. 1341. Petitioners now receive only the benefits guaranteed by ERISA, see 1322, which are in general substantially lower than the fully vested pensions due them under the plan.

Petitioners sued the fiduciaries of the failed plan, alleging breach of fiduciary duties. See Mertens v. Black, 948 F. 2d 1105 (CA9 1991) (per curiam) (affirming denial of summary judgment). They also commenced this action against respondent,1 alleging that it had caused the losses by allowing Kaiser to select the plan's actuarial assumptions, by failing to disclose that Kaiser was one of its clients, and by failing to disclose the plan's funding shortfall. Petitioners claimed that these acts and omissions violated ERISA by effecting a breach of respondent's "professional duties" to the plan, for which they sought, inter alia, monetary relief. In opposing

1 The complaint also named as defendants the plan and the PBGC, in its capacity as the plan's statutory trustee. The District Court's dismissal of these defendants was not appealed, nor was its dismissal of the PBGC's cross-claim demanding that any recovery by petitioners be paid to it.

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