Sixteen Bremer Bank employee-shareholders on Wednesday filed a class action lawsuit against three trustees of Otto Bremer Trust for allegedly breaching fiduciary duty and oppressing shareholders.
The lawsuit alleges that trustees Brian Lipschultz, Daniel Reardon, and Charlotte Johnson have unlawfully seized voting control of the bank and attempted to force a sale of the bank.
The suit “seeks to stop the Trustees’ attempted seizure of the employee-shareholders’ voting rights,” said Richard Allyn, a partner at Robins Kaplan, a law firm representing the employees.
The suit calls for the court to declare Otto Bremer Trust’s transfer of shares to outside investors as unlawful. It also requests a court order to prevent the trustees from making other moves the employees feel undermine their voting interests.
In a 32-page complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, the employee-shareholders say the trustees breached their fiduciary duty to Bremer Financial by using “manipulative transfers.” This is in reference to the sales of multiple shares of Bremer Bank—first publicly disclosed in October when the trust announced plans to sell bank.
The employees’ lawsuit argues that a sale of the bank goes against the interests of the bank itself, its shareholders, its employees, and its customers.
“While we disagree with the substance of today’s legal filing, we share the plantiffs’ obvious concern for what comes next for the bank and its people,” a trust spokesperson said in an email. “For that reason, we strongly believe that looking at strategic options for the bank is good for the institution, good for its employees, good for the people and communities who benefit from the [Trust] and good for everyone who [is] a shareholder in the enterprise.”
The employees’ suit against the trustees comes a month after the two key investment funds that purchased Bremer Bank shares from Otto Bremer Trust filed their own suit against the bank for not allowing the transfers to be completed.
In late November, Bremer Financial Board Members sued Otto Bremer Trust leaders for planning to sell the bank. The trustees filed a response to the suit on December 9.