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Judge says bank can pursue suit against broker

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The Peoples State Bank of Ellettsville can move forward with its lawsuit against broker Stifel Nicolaus & Co., which the bank claims duped it into investing $13 million in auction-rate securities just before those markets froze up.

Federal Judge Richard Young granted Peoples the victory March 14 by ruling that the bank can sue Stifel on its claims that the broker violated the Indiana Securities Act and committed fraud.

The judge dismissed a lesser breach-of-contract claim on Stifel’s attempt to get him to throw out Peoples’ entire case on summary judgment.

The tiny bank west of Bloomington sued St. Louis-based Stifel in late 2010. Its suit claims a Stifel broker, Michael Sullivan, called the bank in early November 2007 and within days convinced Peoples to spend $7.5 million on a security backed by federal student loans. Over the next two months, Peoples poured nearly $6.2 million more into the auction-rate investments.

Peoples’ officials never reviewed a prospectus before placing the order, according to the bank’s lawsuit, nor did they realize their investment is subordinate to another investor who bought securities on the same batch of student loans.

“Unlike federal case law, the Indiana Securities Act remains silent on the duty to read,” Young wrote. “Even so, the underlying policy of full disclosure should be considered here, too. The Act principally requires broker-dealers to disclose all material information.”

Peoples claims the auction-rate securities were marketed by Stifel as liquid, investment-grade securities that could be sold at any seven-day or 28-day auction rate. In addition, Peoples alleges that Sullivan represented them as safe, well-collateralized and guaranteed by the federal government.

Because of the market collapse, Peoples now alleges it has long-term securities that generate no interest payments and don’t mature for 35 years.

The bank's purchases represented 15 percent of its investments at the time, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Peoples has 11 branches in Monroe, Brown, Owen and Morgan counties, according to the FDIC.

Within weeks of Peoples' making the deal, investors across the country bailed on the monthly auctions of the securities, which had been sold as ways to invest in corporate and municipal debt, and for those debt issuers to obtain more attractive interest rates.

The failure of the auctions kicked Peoples’ investments into default status, in which it earns little to no interest on its investments. It still has $11.8 million tied up in the auction-rate securities.

Peoples is suing Stifel in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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