CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – A St. Louis County jury awarded $77 million to a woman who claimed Wells Fargo mismanaged her family’s trusts.
Barbara Burton Morriss, 78, sued Wells Fargo in March 2012, claiming the bank breached its fiduciary duty to disclose financial transactions in two family trusts. Morriss said she learned of the losses of millions of dollars when her credit card was declined at Neiman Marcus.
The award, announced late Monday, is believed to be the largest plaintiff verdict in St. Louis County history. It consists of $45 million in actual damages and $32 million in punitive damages.
Morriss was a beneficiary and co-trustee of two trusts with her son, B. Douglas Morriss, who was sentenced to five years in federal prison for tax evasion in 2013. Barbara Morriss claims money from the trusts was wrongfully pledged as collateral in risky business ventures, and that she learned it only that after civil charges of defrauding investors were brought against her son in 2012.
She claims that Wells Fargo and her son were closely aligned in a scheme to defraud the trusts, and that Wells Fargo received more than $12 million tied to its participation in the trusts.
Wells Fargo claimed that it should not be held liable for the losses, because it and its predecessor banks – Offitbank and Wachovia – were never trustees, but merely custodians for the portion of the trusts held at the bank.
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