Court Awards Punitive Damages in Breach of Fiduciary Duty Suit Against Regions
A Chancery Court in Mississippi has entered a final Order (as amended) awarding punitive damages to the Plaintiffs in their suit against Regions Bank for breach of fiduciary duty, a case we’ve looked at in the past (see Regions Hit with $4M Judgment over Trust Mismanagement). The total damage award is $6,464,254 as follows:
- $3,363,326 actual damages;
- $1,000,000 punitive damages;
- $966,740 attorneys’ fees;
- $175,867 expenses;
- $958,321 pre-judgment interest at 8% from date suit was filed through the date the Court’s Order on liability was entered;
- In addition, the Court awarded post-judgment interest at 8% from the entry of its Final Judgment.
Some of the compelling findings of the court include:
- “[T]his Court finds that the overall breach of duty to be reprehensible.”
- “Regions knew they were required to conduct a needs analysis, yet they never did. There were hundreds of transactions conducted over the course of 11 years and not once did Regions take into consideration the needs of Mrs. Sheppard to maintain her present standard of living. They were giving her money any time she asked for it, distributing principal when income was available in the trust, and they never swept the account. They violated their own policies and this rises to the level of reckless behavior.”
- “The court also notes that Regions’ actions and intentional concealment regarding the Trust really set the family on a course that would have been very different if Regions had performed its duties. . . Evidence reveals that [Regions’] actions had a severe impact on the family and the Trust. Ironically, the impact on the family Trust was exactly what Mr. Sheppard was trying to ensure never happened.”
- “A substantial punitive damages verdict would send Regions the message that it cannot utilize a ‘let the buyer beware’ mentality when it serves as a fiduciary.”
- The trust officer’s supervisor testified that he didn’t properly supervise the trust officer “because he knew very little about trusts.”
- “Evidence revealed that [the investment manager assigned to the Trust] took orders from Birmingham (Regions’ headquarters) and she never questioned why the entire principal was being disbursed from the trust in such a manner.”
Trustees and Proprietary Products
Elsewhere, over at Bloomberg BNA, Daniel Hauffe looks at another case in Mississippi involving Regions Bank. In his article, Prudence in Violating the Prudent Investor Act, Hauffe offers some precautionary measures when a Trustee invests trust assets in its own proprietary financial products.
At Wealth Management, David Silvian and Phyllis Johnson ask, Do Trustees Have a Duty to Consider Decanting?
High Investment Concentration
Finally, one of the largest banks in the world, Fifth Third Bank, has found itself in the middle of a claim that it failed to diversify the assets of a trust settled by one of the founders of the Standard Register Company. Margarida Correia explains in Fifth Third Battles heirs of Standard Register Founders.