Justice Thomas, delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 406(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 88 Stat. 879, bars a fiduciary of an employee benefit plan from causing the plan to engage in certain transactions with a "party in interest." 29 U. S. C. § 1106(a). Section 502(a)(3) authorizes a "participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary" of a plan to bring a civil action to obtain "appropriate equitable relief" to redress violations of ERISA Title I. 29 U. S. C. § 1132(a)(3). The question is whether that authorization extends to a suit against a nonfiduciary "party in interest" to a transaction barred by § 406(a). We hold that it does.
Responding to deficiencies in prior law regulating transactions by plan fiduciaries, Congress enacted ERISA § 406(a)(1), which supplements the fiduciary's general duty of
This case comes to us on the assumption that an ERISA pension plan (the Ameritech Pension Trust (APT)) and a party in interest (respondent Salomon Smith Barney (Salomon)) entered into a transaction prohibited by § 406(a) and not exempted by § 408.
This litigation arose when APT's fiduciaries—its trustee, petitioner Harris Trust and Savings Bank, and its administrator, petitioner Ameritech Corporation—discovered that the motel interests were nearly worthless. Petitioners maintain that the interests had been worthless all along; Salomon asserts, to the contrary, that the interests declined in value due to a downturn in the motel industry. Whatever the true cause, petitioners sued Salomon in 1992 under § 502(a)(3), which authorizes a "participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary" to bring a civil action "to enjoin any act or practice which violates any provision of [ERISA Title I] . . . or . . . to obtain other appropriate equitable relief . . . to redress such violations." 29 U. S. C. § 1132(a)(3).
Petitioners claimed, among other things, that NISA, as plan fiduciary, had caused the plan to engage in a per se prohibited transaction under § 406(a) in purchasing the motel interests from Salomon, and that Salomon was liable on account of its participation in the transaction as a nonfiduciary party in interest. Specifically, petitioners pointed to § 406(a)(1)(A), 29 U. S. C. § 1106(a)(1)(A), which prohibits a "sale or exchange . . . of any property between the plan and a party in interest," and § 406(a)(1)(D), 29 U. S. C. § 1106(a)(1)(D), which prohibits a "transfer to . . . a party in interest . . . of any assets of the plan." Petitioners sought rescission of the transaction, restitution from Salomon of the purchase price with interest, and disgorgement of Salomon's profits made from use of the plan assets transferred to it. App. 41.
Salomon moved for summary judgment, arguing that § 502(a)(3), when used to remedy a transaction prohibited by § 406(a), authorizes a suit only against the party expressly constrained by § 406(a)—the fiduciary who caused the plan to enter the transaction—and not against the counterparty to the transaction. See § 406(a)(1), 29 U. S. C. § 1106(a)(1) ("A
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. 184 F.3d 646 (1999). It began with the observation that § 406(a), by its terms and like several of its neighboring provisions, e. g., § 404, governs only the conduct of fiduciaries, not of counterparties or other nonfiduciaries. See id., at 650. The court next posited that "where ERISA does not expressly impose a duty, there can be no cause of action," ibid., relying upon dictum in our decision in Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248, 254 (1993), that § 502(a)(3) does not provide a private cause of action against a nonfiduciary for knowing participation in a fiduciary's breach of duty. The Seventh Circuit saw no distinction between the Mertens situation (involving § 404) and the instant case (involving § 406), explaining that neither section expressly imposes a duty on nonfiduciaries. Finally, in the Seventh Circuit's view, Congress' decision to authorize the Secretary of Labor to impose a civil penalty on a nonfiduciary "party in interest" to a § 406 transaction, see § 502(i), simply confirms that Congress deliberately selected one enforcement tool (a civil penalty imposed by the Secretary) instead of another (a civil action under § 502(a)(3)). Accordingly, the Seventh Circuit held that a nonfiduciary cannot be liable under § 502(a)(3) for participating in a § 406 transaction and entered summary judgment in favor of Salomon.
In doing so, the Seventh Circuit departed from the uniform position of the Courts of Appeals that § 502(a)(3)—and the similarly worded § 502(a)(5), which authorizes civil actions by the Secretary—does authorize a civil action against a nonfiduciary
We agree with the Seventh Circuit's and Salomon's interpretation of § 406(a). They rightly note that § 406(a) imposes a duty only on the fiduciary that causes the plan to engage in the transaction. See § 406(a)(1), 29 U. S. C. § 1106(a)(1) ("A fiduciary with respect to a plan shall not cause the plan to engage in a transaction, if he knows or should know that such transaction . . ." (emphasis added)). We reject, however, the Seventh Circuit's and Salomon's conclusion that, absent a substantive provision of ERISA expressly imposing a duty upon a nonfiduciary party in interest, the nonfiduciary party may not be held liable under § 502(a)(3), one of ERISA's remedial provisions. Petitioners contend, and we agree, that § 502(a)(3) itself imposes certain duties, and therefore that liability under that provision does not depend on whether ERISA's substantive provisions impose a specific duty on the party being sued.
"(a) . . .
"A civil action may be brought—
. . . . .
This language, to be sure, "does not . . . authorize `appropriate equitable relief' at large, but only `appropriate equitable relief' for the purpose of `redress[ing any] violations or . . . enforc[ing] any provisions' of ERISA or an ERISA plan." Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349, 353 (1996) (quoting Mertens, supra, at 253 (emphasis and alterations in original)). But § 502(a)(3) admits of no limit (aside from the "appropriate equitable relief" caveat, which we address infra) on the universe of possible defendants. Indeed, § 502(a)(3) makes no mention at all of which parties may be proper defendants—the focus, instead, is on redressing the "act or practice which violates any provision of [ERISA Title I]." 29 U. S. C. § 1132(a)(3) (emphasis added). Other provisions of ERISA, by contrast, do expressly address who may be a defendant. See, e. g., § 409(a), 29 U. S. C. § 1109(a) (stating that "[a]ny person who is a fiduciary with respect to a plan who breaches any of the responsibilities, obligations, or duties imposed upon fiduciaries by this subchapter shall be personally
In light of Congress' precision in these respects, we would ordinarily assume that Congress' failure to specify proper defendants in § 502(a)(3) was intentional. See Russello v. United States, 464 U.S. 16, 23 (1983). But ERISA's "`comprehensive and reticulated' " scheme warrants a cautious approach to inferring remedies not expressly authorized by the text, Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Russell, 473 U.S. 134, 146 (1985) (quoting Nachman Corp. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, 446 U.S. 359, 361 (1980)), especially given the alternative and intuitively appealing interpretation, urged by Salomon, that § 502(a)(3) authorizes suits only against defendants upon whom a duty is imposed by ERISA's substantive provisions. In this case, however, § 502(l) resolves the matter—it compels the conclusion that defendant status under § 502(a)(3) may arise from duties imposed by § 502(a)(3) itself, and hence does not turn on whether the defendant is expressly subject to a duty under one of ERISA's substantive provisions.
Section 502(l) provides in relevant part:
"(1) In the case of—
Section 502(l) contemplates civil penalty actions by the Secretary against two classes of defendants, fiduciaries and "other person[s]." The latter class concerns us here. Paraphrasing, the Secretary shall assess a civil penalty against an "other person" who "knowing[ly] participat[es] in" "any . . . violation of . . . part 4 . . . by a fiduciary." And the amount of such penalty is defined by reference to the amount "ordered by a court to be paid by such . . . other person to a plan or its participants and beneficiaries in a judicial proceeding instituted by the Secretary under subsection (a)(2) or (a)(5). " Ibid. (emphasis added).
The plain implication is that the Secretary may bring a civil action under § 502(a)(5) against an "other person" who "knowing[ly] participat[es]" in a fiduciary's violation; otherwise, there could be no "applicable recovery amount" from which to determine the amount of the civil penalty to be imposed on the "other person." This § 502(a)(5) action is available notwithstanding the absence of any ERISA provision explicitly imposing a duty upon an "other person" not to engage in such "knowing participation." And if the Secretary may bring suit against an "other person" under subsection (a)(5), it follows that a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary
Salomon invokes Mertens as articulating an alternative, more restrictive reading of § 502(l) that does not support the inference we have drawn. In Mertens, we suggested, in dictum, that the "other person[s]" in § 502(l) might be limited to the "cofiduciaries" made expressly liable under § 405(a) for knowingly participating in another fiduciary's breach of fiduciary responsibility. Id., at 261. So read, § 502(l) would be consistent with the view that liability under § 502(a)(3) depends entirely on whether the particular defendant violated a duty expressly imposed by the substantive provisions of ERISA Title I. But the Mertens dictum did not discuss— understandably, since we were merely flagging the issue, see 508 U. S., at 255, 260-261—that ERISA defines the term "person" without regard to status as a cofiduciary (or, for that matter, as a fiduciary or party in interest), see § 3(9), 29 U. S. C. § 1002(9). Moreover, § 405(a) indicates that a cofiduciary is itself a fiduciary, see § 405(a), 29 U. S. C. § 1105(a) ("[A] fiduciary . . . shall be liable for a breach of fiduciary responsibility of another fiduciary . . ."), and § 502(l) clearly distinguishes between a "fiduciary," § 502(l)(1)(A), 29 U. S. C. § 1132(l)(1)(A), and an "other person," § 502(l)(1)(B), 29 U. S. C. § 1132(l)(1)(B).
Notwithstanding the text of § 502(a)(3) (as informed by § 502(l)), Salomon protests that it would contravene common sense for Congress to have imposed civil liability on a party, such as a nonfiduciary party in interest to a § 406(a) transaction, that is not a "wrongdoer" in the sense of violating a duty expressly imposed by the substantive provisions of ERISA Title I. Salomon raises the specter of § 502(a)(3)
But this reductio ad absurdum ignores the limiting principle explicit in § 502(a)(3): that the retrospective relief sought be "appropriate equitable relief." The common law of trusts, which offers a "starting point for analysis [of ERISA] . . . [unless] it is inconsistent with the language of the statute, its structure, or its purposes," Hughes Aircraft Co. v. Jacobson, 525 U.S. 432, 447 (1999) (internal quotation marks omitted), plainly countenances the sort of relief sought by petitioners against Salomon here. As petitioners and amicus curiae the United States observe, it has long been settled that when a trustee in breach of his fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries transfers trust property to a third person, the third person takes the property subject to the trust, unless he has purchased the property for value and without notice of the fiduciary's breach of duty. The trustee or beneficiaries may then maintain an action for restitution of the property (if not already disposed of) or disgorgement of proceeds (if already disposed of), and disgorgement of the third person's profits derived therefrom. See, e. g., Restatement (Second) of Trusts §§ 284, 291, 294, 295, 297 (1957); 4 A. Scott & W. Fratcher, Law of Trusts § 284, § 291.1, pp. 77-78, § 294.2, p. 101, § 297 (4th ed. 1989) (hereinafter Law of Trusts); 5 id., § 470, at 363; 1 D. Dobbs, Law of Remedies § 4.7(1), pp. 660-661 (2d ed. 1993); G. Bogert, Law of Trusts and Trustees § 866, pp. 95-96 (rev. 2d ed. 1995). As we long ago explained in the analogous situation of property obtained by fraud:
Importantly, that a transferee was not "the original wrongdoer" does not insulate him from liability for restitution. See also, e. g., Restatement of Restitution ch. 7, Introductory Note, p. 522 (1937); 1 Dobbs, supra, § 4.3(2), at 597 ("The constructive trust is based on property, not wrongs"). It also bears emphasis that the common law of trusts sets limits on restitution actions against defendants other than the principal "wrongdoer." Only a transferee of ill-gotten trust assets may be held liable, and then only when the transferee (assuming he has purchased for value) knew or should have known of the existence of the trust and the circumstances that rendered the transfer in breach of the trust. Translated to the instant context, the transferee must be demonstrated to have had actual or constructive knowledge of the circumstances that rendered the transaction unlawful. Those circumstances, in turn, involve a showing that the plan fiduciary, with actual or constructive knowledge of the facts satisfying the elements of a § 406(a) transaction, caused the plan to engage in the transaction. Lockheed Corp. v. Spink, 517 U.S. 882, 888-889 (1996).
But Salomon advances a more fundamental critique of the common-law analogy, reasoning that the antecedent violation here—a violation of § 406(a)'s per se prohibitions on transacting with a party in interest—was unknown at common law, and that common-law liability should not attach to an act that does not violate a common-law duty. While Salomon accurately characterizes § 406(a) as expanding upon the common law's arm's-length standard of conduct, see Keystone Consol. Industries, 508 U. S., at 160, we reject Salomon's unsupported suggestion that remedial principles of the common law are tethered to the precise contours of commonlaw duty.
We note, however, that our interpretation of § 502(a)(3) to incorporate common-law remedial principles does not necessarily foreclose accommodation of Salomon's underlying concern that ERISA should not be construed to require counterparties to transactions with a plan to monitor the plan for compliance with each of ERISA's intricate details. See, e. g., Prohibited Transaction Exemption 75-1, § II(e), 40 Fed. Reg. 50847 (1975) (requiring that the plan maintain certain
For these reasons, an action for restitution against a transferee of tainted plan assets satisfies the "appropriate[ness]" criterion in § 502(a)(3). Such relief is also "equitable" in nature. See Mertens, 508 U. S., at 260 ("[T]he `equitable relief' awardable under § 502(a)(5) includes restitution of ill-gotten plan assets or profits . . ."); ibid. (explaining that, in light of the similarity of language in §§ 502(a)(3) and (5), that language should be deemed to have the same meaning in both subsections).
We turn, finally, to two nontextual clues cited by Salomon and amici. First, Salomon urges us to consider, as the Seventh Circuit did, 184 F. 3d, at 652-653, the Conference Committee's rejection of language from the Senate bill that would have expressly imposed a duty on nonfiduciary parties to § 406(a) transactions. See Brief for Respondents 28-29 (quoting H. R. Rep. No. 93-2, p. 533 (1974) (with amendments as passed by the Senate), reprinted in 3 Legislative History of ERISA (Committee Print compiled for the Senate Subcommittee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare by the Library of Congress), Ser. No. 93-406, p. 3780 (1976) (staff comment on House and Senate differences on § 409)); 3 Legislative History of ERISA, supra, at 5259 (staff
We decline these suggestions to depart from the text of § 502(a)(3). In ERISA cases, "[a]s in any case of statutory construction, our analysis begins with the language of the statute. . . . And where the statutory language provides a clear answer, it ends there as well." Hughes Aircraft, 525 U. S., at 438 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Section 502(a)(3), as informed by § 502(l), satisfies this standard.
Accordingly, we reverse the Seventh Circuit's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Council of Life Insurers et al. by William J. Kilberg, Paul Blankenstein, Miguel A. Estrada, and Victoria E. Fimea; and for the Bond Market Association et al. by Michael R. Lazerwitz, Paul Saltzman, and Stuart J. Kaswell.