paper with fiduciary duty written on it Could a plan seek relief against a plan participant in the form of penalties for breaching its fiduciary duty to the plan to hold and return those funds to the plan? (Photo: Shutterstock)

“Fiduciary;” a very important and often feared role in the risk industry. If you operate in any benefits role, be it in welfare benefit plans, retirement plans, or financial advisory roles, this particular F-word probably rolls off the tongue with little effort or backlash. Who is a fiduciary? What are the responsibilities of one? How does one become a fiduciary, do they choose to be one or do they inherit the classification because of an action they take? The answer is both!

All these questions are grappled with ad nauseum within the offices of a benefits advisor. Most seemingly avoid the classification like the plague, preferring to avoid altogether the liability that comes with the designation. Others accept it as a reality of the world and embrace its complexity. Still, others, likely become fiduciaries in the way they act, often without even realizing it. For those in the latter category, how far down the totem pole can the designation be applicable? Why might a plan sponsor want the tag, at least in some limited form, available to anyone who gains possession of a plan asset?

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