Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller has reached an agreement to help repay some of the $8 million in remaining claims by thousands of depositors in one of five Utah thrifts that went under in 1986.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. However, news reports said depositors will receive about $4 million. When added to other receipts, depositors will have received 100 percent of their deposits but will never recover the tens of millions of dollars in lost interest, said Malcolm Misuraca, one of the attorneys for the depositors.Miller was owner of Commerce Financial, one of five Utah thrifts declared insolvent and shut down by state regulators 12 years ago.
The settlement, which brings to an end a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 15,000 depositors in 1987, still must be approved by a 3rd District Court judge.
The deal was announced late Thursday by attorneys representing Miller, depositors and the state.
A joint press release said, "The settlement with Mr. Miller should not be viewed as an admission of any wrongdoing. . . . Mr. Miller believes his conduct in this matter was honorable at all times.
"In contributing to an overall settlement, Mr. Miller simply did his part to help bring this matter to a close."
The release was drafted by Assistant Utah Attorney General Reed M. Stringham III along with Miller attorney Donald J. Winder and depositors' lawyers Misuraca, George Haley and Robert Stole-barger.
The statement, without providing specifics, also noted that the state had agreed to a reduced share of the proposed settlement.
The state had contended it was entitled to a 30 percent cut of Miller's settlement to help offset the $44 million the state paid depositors. In December, Judge David Young ruled the state was not entitled to any of the money Miller might contribute. The state said it would appeal.
However, under the settlement announced Thursday, the state will get about $1 million.
Miller had been one of just a few defendants remaining among dozens named in the suit filed by those who lost money in the thrifts disaster.
Depositors contended Miller conspired with the state to cover up the true condition of Commerce Financial. Their suit portrayed him as a calculating insider who withdrew his companies' pension funds from Commerce Financial while it was enticing unsuspecting customers to deposit their money there.
Miller said he was a victim because state regulators approved every move and ended up running the thrift.
Since 1986, depositors have waged a protracted battle to regain an estimated $103 million in savings deposited in Commerce, Charter, Western Heritage, Interlake and Copper State thrifts.
"It is nice that this is all finally reaching a conclusion," said Sheila Bohard of the Depositors of Insured Thrifts, a group organized to help recapture depositors' lost savings. "We did not recover everything we would have liked, but we did the best we could."