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VYAS v. VYAS (2019)

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United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Sujata VYAS, Dr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Bhaskar VYAS, an individual; et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 17-56632

Decided: March 20, 2019

Before: SCHROEDER and OWENS, Circuit Judges, and CHRISTENSEN,** Chief District Judge. Nupur Nagar, I, Attorney, Law Offices of Nupur Nagar, Riverside, CA, for Plaintiff-Appellant Joseph Carpello, Attorney, Law Offices of Joseph Carpello, Riverside, CA, for Plaintiff-Appellant Joseph Carpello, Attorney, Law Offices of Joseph Carpello, Brea, CA, for Defendant-Appellee Bhaskar Vyas Ronald Scott Kravitz, Esquire, Attorney, Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Defendant-Appellee Charles Schwab and Schwab Retirement Plan Services Company as Plan Administrator Joseph C. Faucher, Esquire, Attorney, Trucker Huss, APC, Encino, CA, R. Bradford Huss, Dylan D. Rudolph, Trucker Huss, APC, San Francisco, CA, for Defendant-Appellee Lockheed Martin Pension Plan


Plaintiff Sujata Vyas appeals from the district court's orders granting summary judgment to Defendants Bhaskar Vyas and Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. (“Schwab”). As the parties are familiar with the facts, we do not recount them here. We affirm.

1. Vyas does not have standing to sue her ex-husband for breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Vyas is not “a participant, beneficiary or fiduciary” of the relevant plan. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2). Vyas is not named in the plan documents, and the plan is not mentioned in the judgment of dissolution or in a qualified domestic relations order. See 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(C), (J).

2. Vyas has no claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Schwab because Schwab did not “perform[ ] a fiduciary function” when it took “the action[s] subject to complaint.” Pegram v. Herdrich, 530 U.S. 211, 226, 120 S.Ct. 2143, 147 L.Ed.2d 164 (2000). Vyas alleged only that Schwab carried out the directions of the plan administrator, which is not a party to this lawsuit. See Wright v. Or. Metallurgical Corp., 360 F.3d 1090, 1102 (9th Cir. 2004) (“ERISA relieves a trustee from fiduciary obligations regarding the management and control of a plan's assets when the trustee is directed by the plan's designated fiduciaries.” (quotation marks omitted) ). Schwab did not “exercise[ ] any discretionary authority or discretionary control respecting management of [the] plan[s] or exercise[ ] any authority or control respecting management or disposition of [plan] assets.” 29 U.S.C. § 1002(21)(A)(i).


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