Who-Has-Fiduciary-Responsibility-And-What-Can-You-Do-When-There-Is-A-Breach.jpg (2149×1159)When you invest your money, you are taking a great deal on trust. One of the biggest things you have to trust is that the person who is handling your investments is taking their duties seriously. That is why the laws about fiduciary responsibility are stringent. So, just who do these laws apply to, and what can you do if you think that your trust in one is betrayed?

Fiduciary Responsibility

‘Fiduciary’ means a person or organization that owes someone the duties of good faith and trust. It can mean that a person is taking care of someone else in a general sense, but mostly it means that the person is in charge of someone else’s financial situation. Investment fiduciaries in particular are people who are responsible for managing other people’s money. The people who have entrusted their money with that person is called a beneficiary, as in they benefit in a fiduciary relationship. Some examples of a person who has fiduciary responsibility to others are:

  1. money managers
  2. executors
  3. accountants
  4. corporate board members
  5. investment corporations
  6. promoters
  7. guardians

Fiduciary responsibilities are, in essence, about being trustworthy with other people’s money and managing the assets in the best interest of the beneficiary. Here is a partial list of what a fiduciary has the duty to do:

  1. act fairly
  2. act in good faith
  3. be loyal
  4. disclose fully everything relevant
  5. keep things confidential

Types Of Breaches In Fiduciary Responsibility

You might be asking yourself what sort of acts would you look for in your fiduciary if you thought there was a breach in responsibility. There are many ways that a fiduciary might break trust. He or she might:

  1. misappropriate funds
  2. reap extra profits or have conflicts of interest
  3. misuse confidential information
  4. fail to act prudently or neglect their job
  5. provide bad advice
  6. misuse their power (e.g refusing to loan credit or release security interest)
  7. not disclose important information
  8. steal a business opportunity (e.g buying property that would undermine your investment plans)

There are a few signs that you should keep an eye out for.

  1. The transaction record is unclear and the responsible party hides the records
  2. Your assets are mixed in with the fiduciary’s
  3. You discover conflicts of interest
  4. The fiduciary fails to oversee the other fiduciaries involved. Even if someone hires an ‘expert’ to manage your money, that someone is still responsible for the outcome.

What Can You Do?

Fortunately, a breach in fiduciary responsibility claim is a business tort. If you can prove that there was a fiduciary relationship (a business relationship where a party has fiduciary duties,) that the fiduciary failed in their responsibilities, and that it caused you harm, you have a case.

Sometimes proving that the actions of the fiduciary was the actual cause of your investment loss is tricky, but there are some situations where you only have to prove that it was a big contributing factor. You might also find it difficult to prove a claim if the fiduciary in question failed to do something important (committed nonfeasance) as opposed to doing something wrong (committed malfeasance.) However, a lawyer can help you line up your claim.

You can sue for damages, and there might be criminal charges to bring if the fiduciary broke a state law. The SEC takes a dim view of people shirking their responsibilities, as does the state of California, so there are special statutes that can be used to win your case.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy specializes in class actions, employment law and consumer fraud. It is a small-medium law firm operating in California. If you feel that there has been a breach in fiduciary responsibility, and it has led to investment losses, contact us. We are a firm that can help.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986