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A federal court lawsuit is accusing nutritional fruit juice marketer MonaVie LLC and its principals of financial shenanigans for selling shares to an employee retirement program at a premium, only to see the value crash nearly 100 percent.
A proposed class action lawsuit says the South Jordan company sold shares valued at $186 million to an employee stock ownership program in 2010 that are now worth only 0.5 percent of that amount.
The lawsuit, filed by Washington, D.C., attorney Gregory Porter, also names Bankers Trust Co. of South Dakota, which the complaint alleges failed to fulfill its duties as trustee of the program by allowing MonaVie to sell shares at a highly inflated value using a loan carrying an exorbitant interest rate.
"The company unloaded $186 million in stock which was probably worth a fraction of that, maybe a penny or two," Porter said.
MonaVie spokesman Eric Eames said the claims in the lawsuit are false.
"In fact, the underlying premise of the lawsuit, as alleged, are so dramatically inaccurate that we are confident that this case will be dismissed in short order," Eames said in an email.
Bankers Trust spokesman Jonathan Brendemuehl said that while the company had yet to review the lawsuit, it had fulfilled its legal duties as trustee of the employee stock ownership program.
"In all instances Bankers Trust has acted solely in the best interests of the MonaVie ESOP participants," he said in an email.
The lawsuit was filed with former MonaVie trainer Kelly Jessop as the sole plaintiff, but seeks to represent other current and former employees who are vested in the stock program.
In 2010, MonaVie formed the stock ownership program. Bankers Trust approved purchase of shares of the privately held company from stockholders for $186 million.
The purchase was made entirely by a loan from the company to the program carrying an interest rate of 10 percent, which the suit says was more than double the current rate for a private transaction. The 15-year loan put the total value owed by the employee program to MonaVie at nearly $266 million.
But the shares lost more than one-third of their value within 44 days of the sale and by January of 2014 were only valued at $774,000, a decline of 99.95 percent, according to the complaint.
No lending institution that had researched MonaVie and its history of legal actions and negative publicity would have valued the shares at the level they were when sold to the ESOP, the complaint says in accusing Bankers Trust of failing to carry out its trustee duties.
"If Bankers Trust had followed up with MonaVie regarding these revenue and liability issues or conducted sufficient due diligence, Bankers Trust would have learned that MonaVie's revenues were dwindling while liabilities were piling on," the lawsuit alleges.
Money to pay off the note to MonaVie was to come from company profits, but payments were at the discretion of company officials and have not been sufficient to service the interest on the note, the lawsuit says.
The nearly worthless shares means employees won't receive the compensation they were promised, Porter said.
The lawsuit names cofounder, chairman and CEO Dallin Larsen and his brother Randy Larsen, a senior vice president. Also named are Henry Marsh, executive vice president, as well as other officers and directors.