Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Fiduciary duties arise from fiduciary relationships which can exist and be found in a number of different contexts. A fiduciary relationship is any relation between parties to a transaction wherein one of the parties is duty-bound to act with the utmost good faith for the benefit of the other party.

Before a person can be charged with a fiduciary obligation, he must either knowingly undertake to act on behalf of and for the benefit of another person or must enter into a relationship that imposes that undertaking as a matter of law. Examples of relationships that impose a fiduciary obligation are joint venturers in their dealings with one another; partners in their dealings with one another on behalf of a partnership; agents in their dealings with the principle in the course and scope of an agency; and a husband and wife in their dealings with one another in a marriage. Other examples include the investment adviser-client relationship; the attorney-client relationship; the trustee-beneficiary relationship and the relationship between corporate officers, directors, and majority shareholders on one end and minority shareholders on the other.

Fiduciary duties include but are not limited to:

  • The duty of undivided loyalty
  • The duty to fully, fairly, and completely disclose all known material facts concerning a transaction
  • The duty of confidentiality
  • The duty to follow instructions
  • The duty to elevate the interests of the benefitted person(s) over and above those of the fiduciary.

A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when someone violates any one or more of the above-described fiduciary duties or when someone with the responsibility of acting in the interest of another person fails to do so. The essential factual elements of breach of fiduciary duty are:

  • The existence of a fiduciary duty
  • Breach of that duty on the part of the fiduciary;
  • Damage resulting from the breach.

Examples of common breaches of fiduciary duty in the context of agents and principals include unauthorized disclosures of confidential information, failing to follow the principal’s instructions, and profiting at the principal’s expense.

Examples of common breaches of duty in the context of partnerships, trusts, and trustees include:

  • Mismanagement of partnership business, or of trust investments
  • Commingling partnership or trust assets with personal assets of the fiduciary
  • Concealing important information from partners and/or beneficiaries
  • Failing to disclose conflicts of interest
  • Self-dealing at the expense of the partnership and/or trust.

The Sterling Law Group has both defended and pursued claims for breach of fiduciary duty successfully in a variety of contexts. If you have suffered from a breach of fiduciary duty or if you stand potentially exposed to a claim of breach of fiduciary duty by others, we can assist you in evaluating your situation and advising you on a comprehensive strategy that is aggressive, expeditious, and cost-effective. Contact us now to schedule an appointment.

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