ERISA-Tenth Circuit Holds That A Pension Plan Consultant, Who Merely Calculates The Amount Of A Pension Benefit, Is Not A Fiduciary Under ERISA, And Could Not Have Breached Any Fiduciary Duty

In Lebahn v. National Farmers Union Uniform Pension Plan, No. 15-3201 (10th Cir. 2016), the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) faced an appeal involving claims under ERISA. Mr. Trent Lebahn and his wife had claimed that a pension-plan consultant breached a fiduciary duty by misstating the amount of the monthly pension payments that Mr. Lebahn would receive if he were to retire.

However, noted the Court, under ERISA, the plan consultant could be considered a fiduciary only if she exercised discretionary authority over the plan’s administration. On appeal, the Court asked: Does a consultant exercise discretionary authority in administering the plan simply by making a calculation of benefits at the request of a plan participant?  The Court conclude that a consultant does not exercise discretionary authority under these circumstances, and therefore could not be a fiduciary or breach fiduciary duty.

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