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Company hit with class action suits

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

Two class action lawsuits have been filed against an Indianapolis firm that had offered estate planning services to people. Now, the Indiana Supreme Court is considering what happens next against the company it found a year ago had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

At the heart of the issue is United Financial Systems, which lost its license to operate because of an order by the state’s insurance commissioner Jan. 28. That suspension stemmed from a targeted market conduct examination the state agency began last fall and the company’s failure to submit payments. Following an Indiana Supreme Court decision last year and the company’s subsequent license suspension, there has been a growing storm against United Financial.

In State of Indiana, Ex. Rel. Indiana State Bar Association v. United Financial Systems Corp., No. 84S00-0810-MS-551, filed by the Indiana State Bar Association in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in April 2010 that the company had engaged in UPL based on how it offered estate planning services. The court ordered that customers be notified and reimbursed, but that didn’t happen and the state’s justices in December again ordered the company to notify and refund money to those it had sold estate planning services.

The justices in January appointed former Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro as commissioner, and after three meetings between parties she found on March 28 that United Financial had failed without good cause to pay refunds to 346 customers. The company had 15 days from the date of that order to issue refunds to those individuals.

But the two lawsuits pick up where the ISBA suit left off. The first lawsuit, Donald A. Bonnell and Wayne L. Landes v. United Financial Systems Corporation, No. 25C01-1101-PL-00051, was filed in January in Fulton County by Logansport law firm Starr Austen & Miller. A second suit is Richard L. Kennard v. United Financial Systems Corporation, No. 49C01-1103-PL-010470, filed March 16 in Marion County by law firm Cohen & Malad. The suits allege constructive fraud, contractual claim violations, conversion, and disgorgement of fees due to UPL.•

Rehearing "Court orders refunds in estate planning UPL case" IL Jan. 5-18, 2011

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