Wal-Mart $13.5 Million Retirement-Suit Accord Is Approved

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the largest U.S. private employer, and Merrill Lynch (MER) won a judge’s final approval to pay $13.5 million to settle claims the retailer’s employees were charged excessive 401(k) fees.

U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner in Missouri approved the accord at a hearing today, according to the court docket. Merrill Lynch, the plan’s trustee now part of Bank of America Corp., will pay $10 million and Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal- Mart will pay $3.5 million.

The docket entry said the “court orally grants motion for approval of class action settlement” and “written order to be issued.”

In 2009, a U.S. appeals court overturned Fenner’s decision the previous year throwing out the suit. Wal-Mart was accused in the suit of failing to offer retirement plans that limit the amount of fees and expenses that are charged when employees make investments.

The complaint also included an allegation that the improper administration of the plans cost participants more than $60 million. The class-action, or group, lawsuit was filed by Wal- Mart employee Jeremy Braden.

“We’re pleased to have settled the matter,” Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in a phone interview.

Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America, said the bank was pleased to resolve the case “and continue to provide a high-quality plan for Walmart employees.”

Gretchen Obrist, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 08-cv-3109, U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at tweidlich@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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