As reported by the Clarion-Ledger last week, Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens issued an Order in favor of Meg Weidner against Trustmark Bank National Bank in a breach of fiduciary duty case. Here is a copy of the Order.

The case stemmed from Trustmark acting as trustee for a trust set up by Dr. William and Margaret Rosenblatt for the benefit of their children and grandchildren. Trustmark improperly disbursed over $1.7 million of principle from the trust to one of the two children (Dee Rosenblatt Farrell). Trustmark fired the employee who screwed up.  

Judge Owens ordered Trustmark to re-pay over $1.7 million to the trust. Trustmark also must pay $100,000 in punitive damages and the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, which have not yet been adjudicated. I don’t see how the attorney’s fees could be less than six figures for a case of this nature.

The trust allowed the beneficiaries to withdraw from the corpus only to meet emergency needs. Trustmark’s own policies required this type of distribution to be approved by the bank’s trust committee with yearly accountings to the other beneficiaries. Each withdrawal had to be separately approved. None of the 150 corpus invasions over a six year period were approved by Trustmark’s trust committee.

There was evidence that the Trustmark officer who screwed up alleged that Dee "had been conning him into invading the corpus to buy clothing."

Trustmark also never obtained the required approval of the disbursements from the other beneficiaries.  

Trustmark is in denial mode:

T. Harris Collier III, Trustmark’s general counsel, said in a statement the bank is reviewing Owens’ opinion "and considering all of our options."

"The ruling did not find any unauthorized disbursements from the trust," Collier said in the statement. "However, it found that certain administrative and documentation policies and procedures were not followed by the trust officer."

Mike Farrell of Jackson (no relation to Dee Farrell) represented the plaintiff. William Ray of Watkins & Eager represented Trustmark. Luke Dove of Jackson represented Dee Farrell.

My Take:

I didn’t understand how this could happen…..until I read the statement by Trustmark’s general counsel. Apparently, Trustmark’s legal department can’t read.