A fiduciary duty is a responsibility to act in the best interests of another party. Persons in positions of trust or fiduciary relationship, such as officers and directors or high level employees of a corporation, and agents and brokers, owe fiduciary duty to their principals or employers. Fiduciary relationships, which are by their very nature relationships of good faith, may involve a variety of obligations depending on the circumstances.
Under California law, a fiduciary must act in the best interest of the principal, free of any self-dealing, conflicts of interest, or other abuse of the principal for personal advantage. Thus, corporate directors, officers, and employees are barred from using corporate property or assets for their personal gain, or taking corporate opportunities for themselves. More traditional fraudulent conduct, such as theft, acceptance of secret commissions, and conflicts of interest also violate the duty of loyalty, and may form the basis for additional causes of action beyond breach of fiduciary duty.
A breach of fiduciary may be easier to prove than fraud. Plaintiff need not prove fraudulent intent or the other elements of fraud. Rather, plaintiff need only show that the defendant occupied a position of trust or fiduciary relationship and that the defendant breached that duty.
The prevailing plaintiff may be entitled to damages for lost profits and to recover profits that the defendant earned. In some instances, it may even be possible to recover the salary paid to the fiduciary during the period that he or she was in breach. The plaintiff may also recover profits earned by fiduciary even if the plaintiff did not suffer an actual loss.
If you believe you have been victimized by a breach of fiduciary duty, call us. We have the experience and expertise to represent you and protect your best interests. We provide free initial consultation. We offer reasonable hourly fee arrangement as well as creative alternatives to the hourly fee.