Su v. Sherrod, No. 22-2205 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Sherrod and Johnson were fiduciaries of a retirement plan that Sherrod had set up for herself and other employees of her medical practice. The Secretary of Labor brought this civil enforcement action alleging that both had breached their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001. The district court granted the Secretary summary judgment and entered a permanent injunction removing the defendants as fiduciaries.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Both defendants breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence under ERISA. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of plan assets were used for Sherrod’s personal benefit but were accounted for as plan expenses or losses rather than as distributions of retirement benefits. The permanent injunction was within the scope of reasonable responses to the breaches. Even giving Sherrod the benefit of her assertions of good faith, since the district court imposed the injunction based on a summary judgment decision, good faith is not a defense for one breach of fiduciary duty, let alone repeated breaches. Many of Sherrod’s payments to herself from plan assets from 2012-2017 were also prohibited as self-dealing. “Given the gravity and frequency of defendants’ breaches of their fiduciary duties, they are fortunate that the relief against them has thus far been relatively modest.”