A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling that threw out a class-action lawsuit claiming Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., charged excessive fees for management of its $10 billion 401(k) plan.
The decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Fenner dismissing the case.
Neither Wal-Mart officials nor Wal-Mart employee Jeremy Braden, who filed the original lawsuit, could be reached for comment.
According to court documents, Mr. Braden claims that the size of the plan gives it “substantial bargaining power in the highly competitive 401(k) marketplace” to find or reach agreements with providers for investments with lower fees.
The appellate court ruled that an agreement between Wal-Mart and service provider Merrill Lynch kept the fee amounts secret, preventing Mr. Braden from showing how the fees were unreasonable.
“It would be perverse to require plaintiffs bringing prohibited transaction claims to plead facts that remain in the sole control of the parties who stand accused of wrongdoing,” the decision reads.