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On Tuesday, the country's highest court will hear arguments in a case that revolves around the investment fees paid by 401(k) plan participants. In the initial class-action lawsuit, Tibble v. Edison, participants in the 401(k) plan sponsored by California-based utility Edison International argued that they were being charged excessive fees.

Under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, companies that sponsor 401(k) plans have a "fiduciary responsibility" to act in the best interest of their employees. The lawsuit claimed that Edison breached this duty in the case of six of its fund options, where almost identical offerings charging lower fees were available.

Lower courts have already sided with the plan's participants, ruling that the company didn't act in their best interest when it chose pricier "retail-class" shares of mutual funds when cheaper "institutional-class" shares were also available.

But Edison has argued that under the federal law's statute of limitations, plan participants can only sue based on funds that have been in the plan six years or less. As a result, it said that it couldn't be held liable for three of the six funds in question, since they had been in the plan since 1999 and the lawsuit wasn't filed until 2007.

Both a district court and an appeals court agreed with Edison. The plan participants have since appealed those rulings. Now, the Supreme Court will consider whether 401(k) plan sponsors have an ongoing duty to monitor the plan's fund offerings, beyond the six-year statute of limitations.

Who would also like to see banks and other institutions offering investment products be required and held to a fiduciary responsibility to their customers...
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