Legal Memorandum: Actions for Violations of ERISA

Issue: Under ERISA, are others who are not plan beneficiaries ever permitted to bring actions for violations of ERISA?

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Violations of ERISA; Non-plan Beneficiaries
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)—(c), (i), § 1132(e), § 1132(h), § 1132(d)(2), § 1132(g)
Date: 05/01/2007

In addition to the actions that may be brought by a plan participant or beneficiary (and, in some cases, the plan itself), the Secretary of Labor or the Treasury may initiate actions for violations and impose civil penalties under certain specified circumstances.  See, e.g., 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)—(c), (i).

In most cases, the federal district courts have exclusive jurisdiction of the above-described claims.  Id. § 1132(e).  A copy of the complaint must be served on the Secretary of Labor and the Treasury, and either or both of them will generally have the right to intervene in the case, at his or her discretion.  Id. § 1132(h).         

Any money judgment against an employee benefit plan is enforceable only against the plan as an entity and not against any individual person, unless liability against that person is established in his individual capacity (such as in a breach of fiduciary duty claim).  Id. § 1132(d)(2).  Either side in a suit under § 1132 may be awarded its costs and attorney’s fees.  Id. § 1132(g). 


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