Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248, 14 (1993)

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

Opinion of the Court

ipation in a fiduciary's breach of duty, see supra, at 253-254, cofiduciaries expressly are, see 405(a), so there are some "other person[s]" than fiduciaries-in-breach liable under 502(l)(1)(B). These applications of 502(l) give it meaning and scope without resort to the strange interpretation of "equitable relief" in 502(a)(3) that petitioners propose. The Secretary's initial interpretation of 502(l) accords with our view. The prologue of the proposed regulation implementing 502(l), to be codified at 29 CFR 2560.502l-1, states that when a court awards "equitable relief"—as opposed to "monetary damages"—a 502(l) penalty will be assessed only if the award involves the transfer to the plan of money or property. 55 Fed. Reg. 25288, 25289, and n. 9 (1990).

In the last analysis, petitioners and the United States ask us to give a strained interpretation to 502(a)(3) in order to achieve the "purpose of ERISA to protect plan participants and beneficiaries." Brief for Petitioners 31. They note, as we have, that before ERISA nonfiduciaries were generally liable under state trust law for damages resulting from knowing participation in a trustees's breach of duty, and they assert that such actions are now pre-empted by ERISA's broad pre-emption clause, 514(a), 29 U. S. C. 1144(a), see Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. McClendon, 498 U. S. 133, 139-140 (1990). Thus, they contend, our construction of 502(a)(3) leaves beneficiaries like petitioners with less protection than existed before ERISA, contradicting ERISA's basic goal of "promot[ing] the interests of employees and their benefici-aries in employee benefit plans," Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U. S. 85, 90 (1983). See Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, supra, at 114.

Even assuming (without deciding) that petitioners are correct about the pre-emption of previously available state-court actions, vague notions of a statute's "basic purpose" are nonetheless inadequate to overcome the words of its text regarding the specific issue under consideration. See Pen-


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