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Barboza v. California Association of Professional Firefighters

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 7, 2015

David Barboza, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
California Association of Professional Firefighters, a California corporation; California Association of Professional Firefighters, Long-Term Disability Plan; California Administration Insurance Services, Inc., a California corporation; Kenneth Blanton; Dennis Campanale; Gene Dangel; James Floyd; Charles Gluck; Brian Pinomaki; William Soqui, individually and as Plan Directors, Defendants-Appellees. David Barboza, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
California Association of Professional Firefighters, a California corporation; California Association of Professional Firefighters, Long-Term Disability Plan; California Administration Insurance Services, Inc., a California corporation; Kenneth Blanton; Dennis Campanale; Gene Dangel; James Floyd; Charles Gluck; Brian Pinomaki; William Soqui, individually and as Plan Directors, Defendants-Appellees. David Barboza, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
California Association of Professional Firefighters, a California corporation; California Association of Professional Firefighters, Long-Term Disability Plan; California Administration Insurance Services, Inc., a California corporation; Kenneth Blanton; Dennis Campanale; Gene Dangel; James Floyd; Charles Gluck; Brian Pinomaki; William Soqui, individually and as Plan Directors, Defendants-Appellants. David Barboza, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
California Association of Professional Firefighters, a California corporation; California Association of Professional Firefighters, Long-Term Disability Plan; California Administration Insurance Services, Inc., a California corporation; Kenneth Blanton; Dennis Campanale; Gene Dangel; James Floyd; Charles Gluck; Brian Pinomaki; William Soqui, individually and as Plan Directors, Defendants-Appellants.

Argued and Submitted November 21, 2014-San Francisco, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Frank C. Damrell, Jr., Senior District Judge, Presiding Argued and D.C. No. 2:08-cv-02569-FCD-GGH

COUNSEL

Geoffrey V. White (argued), Law Office of Geoffrey V. White, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee.

Brendan J. Begley (argued) and Louis A. Gonzalez, Jr., Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin, Sacramento, California, for Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

Marcia E. Bove (argued), Senior Trial Attorney; M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor; Timothy D. Hauser, Associate Solicitor, Plan Benefits Security Division; Elizabeth Hopkins, Counsel for Appellate and Special Litigation; and Alex Felstiner, Attorney, United States Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Thomas Perez, Secretary of Labor.

Before: John T. Noonan and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges and William H. Albritton III, [*] Senior District Judge.

SUMMARY [**]

ERISA

The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment in an ERISA action alleging breach of fiduciary duties in the management and administration of an employee welfare benefit plan.

The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants on a claim that they breached their duty to hold plan assets in trust. Applying the common law of trusts, the panel held that under 29 U.S.C. § 1103, a person (legal or natural) must hold legal title to the assets of an employee benefit plan with the intent to deal with these assets solely for the benefit of the members of that plan. Such a person is the "trustee, " and the resulting relationship between the trustee and the participants in the plan with respect to a plan's assets is a "trust" for purposes of § 1103. The panel held that compliance with § 1103 does not require parties to use express words of trust in plan documents.

The panel reversed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants on a claim that they breached their fiduciary duties by engaging in unlawful self-dealing. The panel held that the plan administrator's practice of paying its own fees and expenses from the plan's assets was a prohibited transaction and therefore a breach of its fiduciary duty.

Reversing the district court's partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the panel held that the defendants did not breach their fiduciary duties by failing to distribute a summary annual report because the plan met the definition of a "totally unfunded welfare plan."

OPINION

IKUTA, Circuit Judge:

This appeal requires us to interpret three different provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA): (1) the requirement in 29 U.S.C. ยง 1103(a) that "all assets of an employee benefit plan shall be held in trust by one or more trustees, " sometimes called the "hold in trust" requirement; (2) the prohibition against fiduciary self-dealing under 29 U.S.C. ...


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