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What are fiduciary responsibilities with ERISA?

The Employment Retirement Security Act (ERISA) is a government program to protect American workers' assets that are placed in a retirement fund. New Jersey residents who take part in ERISA should be aware of exactly what ERISA is and what it does. Once the actual function of ERISA is understood, certain subsets of the plan should also be considered. One is the responsibility on the part of fiduciaries whose role it is to oversee the plan. This can be of specific importance if the ERISA contribution is for disability protection. If the assets are not shielded from fiduciary misbehavior, it can cause problems to people when they need ERISA. Should there be an issue or concerns about how a fiduciary is going about the responsibilities inherent with the plan, having legal assistance is a must.

People or entities who have authority or discretionary control over the plan management or plan assets, have discretionary authority or are responsible for the plan's administration, or give investment advice to the plan in return for financial compensation are subject to various fiduciary responsibilities. Those whose plan is in ERISA should know who these individuals or entities are. It can be a trustee, an administrator, or those who are on an investment committee.

The interests of those participating in ERISA and their beneficiaries are the primary responsibilities of the fiduciary. They must also provide benefits and pay for expenses related to the plan. A fiduciary is required to minimize risk of substantial losses. They must keep the plan diversified to do so. There cannot be conflicts of interest and they cannot benefit from transactions themselves. If the fiduciary is found to violate these requirements, they might be liable for losses and be responsible to restore those losses to the plan. A fiduciary can be removed by the court if they breach their duties.

People who trust fiduciaries to oversee ERISA might not want to believe that any inappropriate behaviors or actions are taking place. However, if there is suspicion that the fiduciary is not following the mandate with the program, it is imperative to have legal assistance. A law firm that understands all areas of ERISA can help.

Source: dol.gov, "ERISA - Fiduciary Responsibilities," accessed on Feb. 20, 2018

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