The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday ordered a lower court to conduct an inquiry into an alleged close friendship between a federal magistrate judge and the lead lawyer for the plaintiff in a business dispute that resulted in a $124.5 million bench award.

In its 3-0 decision, the Fifth Circuit said more information is needed to determine whether the award to IFG Port Holdings LLC should be set aside because U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay, who oversaw the underlying dispute, allegedly had an “undisclosed longstanding friendship” with IFG attorney William Monk.