Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248, 4 (1993)

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Cite as: 508 U. S. 248 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

respondent's motion to dismiss, petitioners fleshed out this claim, asserting that respondent was liable (1) as an ERISA fiduciary that committed a breach of its own fiduciary duties, (2) as a nonfiduciary that knowingly participated in the plan fiduciaries' breach of their fiduciary duties, and (3) as a nonfiduciary that committed a breach of nonfiduciary duties imposed on actuaries by ERISA. The District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the complaint, App. to Pet. for Cert. A17, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in relevant part, 948 F. 2d 607 (1991).2

Petitioners sought certiorari only on the question whether ERISA authorizes suits for money damages against nonfiduciaries who knowingly participate in a fiduciary's breach of fiduciary duty. We agreed to hear the case. 506 U. S. 812 (1992).


ERISA is, we have observed, a "comprehensive and reticulated statute," the product of a decade of congressional study of the Nation's private employee benefit system. Nachman Corp. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, 446 U. S. 359, 361 (1980). The statute provides that not only the persons named as fiduciaries by a benefit plan, see 29 U. S. C. 1102(a), but also anyone else who exercises discretionary control or authority over the plan's management, administration, or assets, see 1002(21)(A), is an ERISA "fiduciary." Fiduciaries are assigned a number of detailed duties and responsibilities, which include "the proper management, administration, and investment of [plan] assets, the mainte-2 Petitioners also claimed that respondent's activities constituted a party-in-interest transaction prohibited by ERISA and professional malpractice under state law. The District Court's dismissal of the former claim was not appealed, but the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the pendent claim on state-law grounds. Petitioners also sought declaratory and injunctive relief, which the District Court deemed irrelevant, given that the plan had been terminated and with it respondent's position as the plan's actuary. The Court of Appeals did not address this point.


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