3 brokerages deny any liability or wrongdoingThree firms in charge of securities offerings and finances for Bonneville Pacific have made a $9.5 million settlement offer to thousands of former investors.
In December 1991, Bonneville Pacific sought bankruptcy protection, and later four of the troubled alternative-energy company's principals were indicted for fraud.The investors' litigation includes several lawsuits filed in 1992 and since consolidated. They seek millions of dollars in damages, targeting investment firms that allegedly knew Bonneville Pacific's assets were inflated or misstated.
All three contributors to the new settlement have made previous settlements with Bonneville Pacific's bankruptcy trustee:
- Piper Jaffray Inc. became Bonneville Pacific's investment banker in 1985 and took the company public in 1986. It continued to handle Bonneville finances and was co-lead underwriter for the 1989 bond offering. The Minneapolis-based firm paid $10 million to the trustee.
- Kidder, Peabody & Co., a long-time Wall Street investment firm, was the other lead underwriter in 1989. It paid $15 million to the bankruptcy trustee. Now defunct, it was sold to PaineWebber Group Inc. in 1994.
- Hanifen, Imhoff Inc., a Denver-based brokerage firm, handled a due-diligence investigation of Bonneville Pacific's assets before the bond offering. It paid $1.75 million to the bankruptcy trustee.
The three companies continue to deny wrongdoing and do not admit liability as part of the settlement.
The $9.5 million offer to investors has won preliminary acceptance from Chief U.S. District Judge David Sam. It will be considered for final approval at an April 13 hearing.
Under the proposal, lawyers representing the investors could claim one-third of the settlement, plus their legal expenses.
Previous settlements netted $2.9 million from former Bonneville Pacific insiders and $2.5 million from Portland General, which had begun acquiring Bonneville Pacific before its deal collapsed in late 1991.
Sam awarded the plaintiff's attorneys 30 percent of the 1995 settlements, plus $1 million in expenses.
More than 3,500 potential class members were located when the 1995 settlements were proposed.
Three main defendants remain in the investors' litigation: Bonneville Pacific's accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche; its Chicago law firm, Mayer Brown & Platt; and Norwest Bank Minnesota, a large lender to Bonneville. Those firms paid a total of $100 million to the bankruptcy trustee.