A federal appeals court has upheld a $6.49 million judgement against a former DirecTV subcontractor.
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a May ruling that now-defunct installer Bruiser & Associates Inc. of Meridian, Mississippi inflated its own stock prices when it set up an employee stock ownership plan more than a decade ago.
The U.S. Department of Labor, which initiated the lawsuit, asked the the court to release money that owner Herbert Bruister placed in a court registry to the installer’s former employees.
From 2002-05, Bruister sold 100 percent of its shares through the employee stock ownership plan. However, court records show that the installation subcontractor’s business then took a turn for the worst, and the company was out of business by August 2008.
The Labor Department filed suit in April 2010 under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, engaging in prohibited transactions, and failure to monitor co-fiduciary liability.
Two former employees filed a similar but separate action that was later consolidated to the Labor Department’s case.
In 2014, after a 19-day trial, a federal judge found that Bruister improperly influenced the valuation of its stock, causing employees to pay much more for it than it was worth. Judge Daniel Jordan ruled that the employees were owed $4.5 million for overpayments and that Bruiser himself was liable for $1.98 million.