Court Denies Former Participant Claim for Fiduciary Breach

July 25, 2006 ( - The 2nd US Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that a former retirement plan participant did not meet requirements under section 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to sue former plan trustees for a breach of fiduciary duty.

In it opinion, the appellate court agreed with the district court’s determination that Karen Coan’s “failure to do anything to demonstrate that her action actually was intended to benefit former plan participants other than Karen Coan … rendered specious [her] claim to be acting on behalf of others.” According to the court, allowing Coan to continue the action without notifying or involving other participants could create opportunities for abuse, such as a settlement that benefited only Coan.

In addition, the court determined that the relief Coan was seeking for the plan was not “equitable,” since she was not asking for funds in possession of the trustees.

Coan was employed by KLC Inc. when it was being purchased by another company. Coan claimed that prior to the termination of the retirement plan in question, the trustees mismanaged the plan’s investments and failed to properly diversify, which resulted in losses to the plan of more than $500,000.

The plan was terminated after the sale of the company, and benefits were paid to participants.

Coan brought claims against the plan’s trustees, seeking damages or equitable relief. A district court in Connecticut granted summary judgment in favor of the trustees.

The opinion in Coan V. Kaufman can be found here .