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date: 26 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the underlying fiduciary principles of pension law, focusing on two forms of pension plans: defined contribution (DC) plan and defined benefit (DB) plan. It first considers the ERISA principles and how they differ from public-sector pension law, along with the extent to which the courts have applied general principles of trust law when interpreting and filling gaps in ERISA. It then discusses the fiduciary triggers of pension law, laying emphasis on the definition of fiduciary in pension law and the ways in which that definition is circumscribed. It also tackles the fiduciary status that arises when investment advice is given in the case of DC plans, co-fiduciary liability that exists under ERISA, how ERISA circumscribes the extent to which fiduciaries owe duties, and the “two hat” problem that arises when the plan sponsors act as fiduciaries. The chapter proceeds by analyzing the fiduciary duties of loyalty, care, and diversification as applied in the pension plan context; breach of fiduciary duty associated with the selection of investment options and service providers; employer stock as an investment option in DC plans; and economically targeted investments. Finally, it explains ERISA’s periodic and episodic disclosure obligations that intersect with fiduciary duties, along with other legal obligations, mandatory and default rules governing a pension plan fiduciary’s obligations, and remedies under ERISA available to pension plan participants in cases of breach of fiduciary duty.

Keywords: fiduciary principles, pension law, defined contribution plan, defined benefit plan, ERISA, trust law, duty of loyalty, duty of care, breach of fiduciary duty, economically targeted investments

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