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Walmart Agrees $13.5M Settlement in Employees 401K Fees Class Action

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New York, NY: Walmart has agreed to a $13.5 settlement of a securities class action brought by employee Jeremy Braden, and others, who alleged that the retail giant, together with Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit, passed along "unreasonably high fees and expenses" to its 2 million workers who had 401(k) plans. As with many 401(k) plans, Walmart's contained a mixture of mutual funds representing investments in the bond and stock markets. The costs of managing those funds were passed along to employees.

According to a report in the AARP Bulletin "the settlement is a legal landmark because Walmart provides one of the largest 401(k) plans in the world and is the nation's largest private employer, with more than $400 billion in annual sales."

The timing is interesting in that the US Department of Labor is currently refining regulations around "fiduciary duty" and fee disclosure in 401(k) plans. And, the government is pressing for full disclosure of all fees paid to middlemen such as savings plan managers and wants stricter legal guidelines on how to provide the most prudent offerings at the lowest possible cost.

"I believe my account has experienced a loss in value, due to the reduced return on my investment in those plan investment options caused by the unreasonably high fees and expenses in those funds," Braden stated in the suit."

"Under the terms of the settlement, Jeremy Braden, the original litigant, will collect $20,000. Other employees covered by the class action suit will not receive payouts, but will benefit in the form of up to $9 million in reduced fees going forward. Lawyers for the plaintiffs will collect as much as $4 million," AARP Bulletin reported.

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