Colson Hicks attorney Curtis B. Miner nudges his case into the headlines today on the big sugar deal:
In January, three former U.S. Sugar employees filed a federal lawsuit in West Palm Beach seeking class-action status, alleging the privately held company’s board kept secret two $575 million buyout offers in recent years that were rejected.An attorney for the employees said on Monday that the lucrative state deal shows employees were getting less for their stock than it was worth.U.S. Sugar employees own about 35 percent of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, according to the suit. The employee stock plans are a common ownership structure for thousands of American companies.U.S. Sugar bought back employee-owned shares in recent years for about $200 per share as employees retired, according to the suit. The two $575 million offers rejected by the board valued the shares at $293 apiece, the suit says. As the number of outstanding shares were reduced, the suit alleges that increased the value of the remaining shares, including those controlled by directors, officers and descendants of the company’s founder.U.S. Sugar and the other individual defendants, including board chairman William S. White, have filed motions to dismiss the suit. The company has said the suit has no merit.Some 4,000 former and current employees are affected.The suit also names as a defendant the $2.5 billion Charles Stewart Mott Foundation of Flint, Mich., which owns 19 percent of the shares and donates millions of dollars annually to combat poverty, promote social causes and protect the environment.Coral Gables attorney Curtis Miner, who represents the plaintiffs, said the $1.7 billion public buyout of U.S. Sugar bolsters the contention that employees were paid below fair value.
“The bottom line is, I think this just triple underscores that the U.S. Sugar employee shareholders were being vastly underpaid for shares,” he said.
Throwing in “bottom line” only makes that “triple underscoring” quote doubly delicious. Good luck with the suit.