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Former Marsh CFO sought out bankruptcy lawyers

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A former top executive of Marsh Supermarkets Inc. became so concerned about the company’s deteriorating finances less than a decade ago that he took the desperate step of meeting with bankruptcy lawyers.

Doug Dougherty, a key witness in the civil trial of former CEO Don Marsh and Marsh's former chief financial officer, testified Friday morning that his warnings of possible financial collapse largely went ignored by his boss at the time.

“I was getting more calls from vendors that had some concern about our ability to pay,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty began receiving calls from vendors in late 2004 and early 2005, about a year-and-a-half before Florida-based Sun Capital Partners acquired the locally based supermarket chain. Marsh Supermarkets says Don Marsh continued to treat the company as his personal checkbook even after the CFO warned of financial problems.

Marsh Supermarkets accuses the former CEO of using company funds to pay more than $3 million in personal expenses. Marsh, 75, spent 38 years leading the public company before it was purchased by Sun Capital.

Dougherty told jurors he expressed his concerns about the company’s finances to Marsh, who reassured him “not to worry about it” because Marsh Supermarkets is in “better financial shape than he knows.”

Don Marsh testified Wednesday that he didn’t agree with company directors that the company was in financial distress.

“Some people felt that way,” Marsh said. “I didn’t.”

But Dougherty said Friday that he became increasingly worried because the company planned to refinance a line of credit and he didn’t believe it would qualify for satisfactory financing terms if it was performing poorly.

Dougherty had served as the company’s CFO since 1994 and was a veteran accountant who previously held similar positions at several other companies, including Topeka, Kan.-based Payless Shoesource Inc.

His relationship was often rocky with Don Marsh, who thought Dougherty’s business style was “too conservative,” he told jurors.

“There was a lot of conflict,” Dougherty testified. “You wouldn’t know if you were dealing with a rational businessman. He threatened to fire me many times.”

Don Marsh did just that in May 2005, when he told Dougherty he needed to be gone by the time Marsh returned from a five-day trip. Dougherty said Marsh never gave him a reason.

Earlier in the trial, Don Marsh told jurors: “I felt like he wasn’t performing the way I thought he should.”

After his replacement quit, however, Dougherty returned to Marsh Supermarkets in December 2005. At the time, Marsh was a $1.7 billion company with more than 115 grocery stores and 160 Village Pantry gas stations.

David Herzog, Marsh Supermarkets' lawyer, asked Dougherty why he would want to return seven months after being fired.

“I knew losing two CFOs in that time would be very difficult for a company to get terms from vendors, and there were 10,000 jobs on the line of people I liked,” Dougherty responded.

Before his firing, directors of Marsh Supermarkets in June 2004 signed off on a company code of conduct following federal passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a high-profile law which mandates that top management of public companies certify the accuracy of financial information.

But jurors learned earlier in the trial that Marsh continued to use the company jet for personal reasons, including numerous extramarital affairs, even after his company adopted the code of conduct to discourage financial fraud within the company.

Marsh testified Thursday that he’s “always been open and honest with the company.”

Dougherty, however, said Friday that the code of conduct was never publicized within the company because “my understanding was that Mr. Marsh didn’t want to widely distribute” it.

Lawyers for Don Marsh began cross-examining Dougherty early Friday afternoon.

On Thursday, Don Marsh’s lawyer revealed he owes more than $500,000 in federal taxes from an IRS audit that found "disallowed deductions" for personal expenses he racked up from April 2004 to September 2006.

The trial, which began Monday, is expected to last another week.
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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