McLAUGHLIN, Circuit Judge:
This is a dispute over a surplus accumulated by the Financial Institutions Retirement Fund (the "Fund"), a multiple employer pension fund established in 1943 to serve financial institutions. The disputed portion of the Fund's surplus relates to contributions made by the twelve Federal Home Loan Banks (the "Banks") to fund the retirement benefits of approximately 2,500 former employees who were transferred to the Office of Thrift Supervision ("OTS") pursuant to statute. After the employees were transferred, both OTS and the Banks claimed the surplus. The Fund allocated it to the Banks and then sued in the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Goettel, Judge) for a declaration that the allocation was proper. OTS, joined by intervening participants in the Fund, counterclaimed against the Fund's directors for breaches of their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (1988). The district court granted summary judgment for the Fund and the Banks, holding that the Banks were entitled to the disputed surplus, and that the Fund's directors did not breach their fiduciary duties by allocating the surplus to the Banks. See Financial Insts. Retirement Fund v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 766 F.Supp. 1302 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). We agree with these conclusions but write to clarify a participant's
The Banks were established in 1932 pursuant to the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, ch. 522, 47 Stat. 725 (1932) (codified as amended at 12 U.S.C. §§ 1421-1449 (1988 & Supp.1990)), and collectively are owned by federally insured savings institutions. The Banks provide liquidity to the thrift industry and, until recently, they also supervised and examined savings associations. When the thrift industry was deregulated in the early 1980s, self-regulation proved disastrous; inadequate "supervision and examination of thrifts was one of the primary causes of the thrift crisis." H.R.Rep. No. 54, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. 301 (1989), reprinted in 1989 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 86, 97. See generally Annual Survey of Financial Institutions and Regulation, The S & L Crisis: Death and Transfiguration, 59 Fordham L.Rev. S1-S459 (1991) (overview of the thrift crisis).
Congress responded to the S & L debacle by overhauling regulation of the industry. See Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 ("FIRREA"),
Before OTS came into the picture, the Fund had already accumulated a surplus, i.e., its assets exceeded the actuarially determined present value of pension benefits accrued by employee-participants. This surplus was generated when the Fund's investments performed better than had been projected. Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished, this enviable surplus position created an anomalous situation for the Fund under then-prevailing law. Consideration of this irony requires us to make a brief detour into the Byzantine world of pension plan accounting and funding.
Prior to 1988, multiple employer pension funds were treated for tax and funding purposes as though they were single employer plans. See, e.g., 26 U.S.C.A. §§ 413(c)(4) & (6) (1988) (amended 1988) (minimum funding standards and deductibility of contributions to multiple employer plans "determined as if all participants in the plan were employed by a single employer"). Thus, a multiple employer plan could not require its participating employers to make additional contributions to a fully funded plan and indeed any such contributions would not be tax deductible. See id. § 404(a)(1)(A)(i). This had two perverse results (each contrary to ERISA's goals): first, it allowed employers who, on an employer-by-employer basis, were actually underfunded to free-ride on the plan's surplus. Second, it provided employers who, on an employer-by-employer basis, were overfunded with an incentive to withdraw from the plan to capture their surpluses.
Recognizing the absurdity of the law, the Fund endeavored to change it by lobbying Congress. At the same time, the Fund calculated the surplus amounts attributable to each employer based on its contributions to the Fund and its projected liabilities for its participating employees. The amount of the surplus attributable to each employer was denominated as a Future Employer Contribution Offset ("FECO"); FECO is simply an accounting entry indicating an employer's share of the Fund's surplus.
Congress finally responded by amending the Code to permit
All of the Banks enjoyed FECO balances when FIRREA became effective and mandated the transfer of approximately 2,500 employees to OTS. As of April 1, 1990, OTS became responsible for the pay and benefits of these transferred employees. See FIRREA § 723(b), 103 Stat. at 428, reprinted in 12 U.S.C. § 1437 note (Supp. 1990). When the Fund billed OTS in June 1990 for its contributions on behalf of the transferred employees, OTS refused to pay, demanding that a portion of the Banks' FECO balances be allotted to OTS. OTS took the position that the $21 million of the Banks' FECO balances attributable to the transferred employees should, like so much baggage, "follow" the employees to OTS. Not surprisingly, the Banks objected, arguing that since they had contributed the monies that created the surplus, the surplus was theirs.
On October 23, 1990, the Fund convened a meeting of a Special Committee of its Board of Directors to address the dispute. The Special Committee comprised twelve board members unaffiliated with the Banks.
The Fund initiated this lawsuit the following day, seeking a declaration "that neither ERISA nor FIRREA require[d] the Fund to transfer to OTS any portion of the FECO balances credited to the [Banks]." The Banks intervened as co-plaintiffs in the action to press the same claim. Before OTS filed its answer, the Fund and the Banks moved for summary judgment.
OTS then answered and asserted counterclaims alleging that the Fund's directors breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA. Several OTS employees who had been transferred from the Banks pursuant to FIRREA then moved to intervene as counterclaim-plaintiffs to join in OTS's claims for breach of fiduciary duty.
The district court granted plaintiffs' summary judgment motions, holding that the Banks were entitled to the disputed FECO balances. Judge Goettel also granted plaintiffs' motions to dismiss the counterclaims, holding (1) that neither OTS nor its intervening employees had standing to assert these claims for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) that the Fund's directors had not breached their fiduciary duties in any event.
Although we agree that the Banks were entitled to the FECO accounts and that the Fund's directors did not breach their fiduciary duties, and therefore affirm the judgment of the district court, we disagree with the district court's alternative holding that the intervening employees
We turn first to a brief examination of the labyrinthine doctrine of standing. Because "standing is gauged by the specific common-law, statutory or constitutional claims that a party presents," International Primate Protection League v. Administrators of Tulane Educ. Fund, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 111 S.Ct. 1700, 1704, 114 L.Ed.2d 134 (1991), we then consider the sections of ERISA invoked by the participants' counterclaims. Finally, we examine
"The term `standing' subsumes a blend of constitutional requirements and prudential considerations...." Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 757, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982); see also Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2204, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975) (standing "involves both constitutional limitations on federal-court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise"). The Supreme Court has developed three requirements for establishing Article III standing: "[a] plaintiff must allege  personal injury  fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and  likely to be redressed by the requested relief." Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. at 751, 104 S.Ct. at 3324; see also Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction 51-71 (1989) (discussing constitutional elements of standing doctrine).
The Court has also articulated a closely related set of prudential principles that limit the circumstances under which federal courts may exercise their jurisdiction. See Warth, 422 U.S. at 499-500, 95 S.Ct. at 2205-06; Valley Forge Christian College, 454 U.S. at 474-75, 102 S.Ct. at 759-60. The prudential contours of the standing doctrine need not detain us, however, because "Congress may override prudential limits by statute", Chemerinsky, supra, at 52; see, e.g., Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. at 2206 ("Congress may grant an express right of action to persons who otherwise would be barred by prudential standing rules"); Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 732 & n. 3, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 1364 & n. 3, 31 L.Ed.2d 636 (1972) (same), and ERISA clearly accomplishes this result. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) (1988) (enumerating persons empowered to bring a civil action under ERISA).
Although Congress may not dispense with the dictates of Article III, see Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. at 2206, "[t]he actual or threatened injury required by Art. III may exist solely by virtue of `statutes creating legal rights, the invasion of which creates standing.'" Id. at 500, 95 S.Ct. at 2205 (quoting Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617 n. 3, 93 S.Ct. 1146, 1149 n. 3, 35 L.Ed.2d 536 (1973)); see also Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 152, 71 S.Ct. 624, 638, 95 L.Ed. 817 (1951) (Frankfurter, J., concurring) ("standing may be based on an interest created by the Constitution or a statute"). The crucial issue in this case then is whether the intervening employee-participants have pleaded a violation of their ERISA-created rights sufficient to satisfy Article III's injury requirement. The district court held that they did not, intimating that injuries cognizable under ERISA must entail at least some risk to plan assets. See 766 F.Supp. at 1309 (participants lack standing to challenge FECO allocation because potential risk of loss to plan assets from this decision is remote). We think the statute casts a wider net.
ERISA explicitly provides that a civil action may be brought:
29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) (1988). Through its incorporation of both section 1109
One such provision is ERISA section 404,
Neither the Fund nor the Banks dispute that the directors are fiduciaries and that "ERISA imposes a high standard on fiduciaries." Beck v. Levering, 947 F.2d 639, 641 (2d Cir.1991) (per curiam). Rather, they contend that allocation of the FECO balances did not trigger the directors' fiduciary duties because these obligations attach only to acts that affect plan assets. See, e.g., Hozier v. Midwest Fasteners, Inc., 908 F.2d 1155, 1158 (3d Cir.1990) ("Fiduciary duties under ERISA attach not just to particular persons, but to particular persons performing particular functions."). Although the district court's opinion is not entirely clear, it apparently agreed with this assertion, holding that the intervenors did not have standing to challenge the FECO allocation because the risk to plan assets that this decision posed was remote. See 766 F.Supp. at 1309. This interpretation is too cramped a view of the scope of ERISA's fiduciary duty provisions.
We agree that if the FECO balances were considered to be plan assets, their disposition would clearly trigger ERISA's fiduciary duties. See 29 U.S.C. § 1002(21)(A)(i) (1988); see, e.g., Leigh, 727 F.2d at 122 (trustee who improperly risks plan assets breaches his fiduciary duty). We need not decide whether the FECO balances were plan assets, however, because a person is also a fiduciary to the extent "he exercises any discretionary authority or discretionary control respecting management of such plan or .... he has any discretionary authority or discretionary responsibility in the administration of such plan." 29 U.S.C. § 1002(21)(A)(i) & (iii); see also Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Russell, 473 U.S. 134, 142-43, 105 S.Ct. 3085, 3090-91, 87 L.Ed.2d 96 (1985) (fiduciary duties "relate to the proper management, administration, and investment of fund assets, the maintenance of proper records, the disclosure of specified information, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest"); O'Neill v. Davis, 721 F.Supp. 1013, 1015 (N.D.Ill.1989) ("disposition of Plan assets is not necessary in order for the fiduciary duty to arise"). There can be no doubt that the Fund's directors were administering or managing the plan when they decided to allocate the FECO balances to the Banks. Accordingly, they were bound to make that decision consistent with ERISA. Compare Amato v. Western Union Int'l, Inc., 773 F.2d 1402, 1416-17 (2d Cir.1985) (trustee not a fiduciary when he does not
Having determined (1) that a violation of the directors' ERISA-imposed fiduciary duties would "injure" the intervening participants, and (2) that ERISA's fiduciary duty provisions are more comprehensive than envisioned by the district court, we now consider whether the intervenors have pleaded violations of their ERISA created rights. In so doing, we are mindful "that when standing is challenged on the basis of the pleadings, we `accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and ... construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party.'" Pennell v. City of San Jose, 485 U.S. 1, 7, 108 S.Ct. 849, 855, 99 L.Ed.2d 1 (1988) (quoting Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. at 2206) (deletion in original).
In their complaint, the intervenors alleged that the Fund's directors, including the non-Bank directors, allowed the Banks' interests to influence their decision in allocating the disputed FECO balances; that this decision was tainted by a conflict of interest; and that the decision was the result of an inadequate and uninformed deliberative process. These facts, which the district court was obliged to accept as true in order to rule on plaintiffs' motion to dismiss for lack of standing, sufficiently allege violations of ERISA section 404 to establish that the plan participants have been injured within the meaning of the statute and therefore also within the meaning of Article III. The district court's holding to the contrary was erroneous.
This conclusion does not affect the judgment of the district court, however, because we agree with Judge Goettel's alternative holding that the Fund's directors did not breach their fiduciary duties. We also agree that the Banks, not OTS, were entitled to the disputed FECO balances. As to these bases for the district court's judgment, we affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge Goettel's thorough opinion, 766 F.Supp. 1302.
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.
29 U.S.C. § 1002(7) (1988). We use the term "participant" and "employee" interchangeably when referring to the intervenors.
29 U.S.C. § 1109(a) (1988).
29 U.S.C. § 1104(a)(1) (1988).