Judge says bank can pursue suit against broker

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues