ERISA: Punitive Damages for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Deborah A. Geier, Cleveland State University


Fiduciary duty principles are central to the protection provided by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA or Act). The law is unsettled, however, about whether Congress intended to extend punitive damages, a typical remedy for breach of fiduciary duty under the common law, to the applicable ERISA provision. This Note argues that the plain meaning of the ERISA fiduciary duty provision, the legislative history underlying the purposes and policies of the Act, and the availability of punitive damages under analogous law, taken together, support the recovery of punitive damages for a breach of ERISA's fiduciary duty provision.