The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered United Financial Systems Corp. to follow a payment schedule for the $2.4 million it still owes former customers.
The court's Jan. 20 order follows its finding in April 2010 that the Indianapolis-based company violated state law by selling estate plans without a license to practice law. The company, which Richard and Jayne Follett started in 1982, shut down not long after the court order.
The court has already ordered restitution through Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who set up a claims process last August, but getting the money has been an arduous process.
The Folletts "asserted frivolous, unreasonable and groundless arguments in an effort to delay issuing refunds," the most recent court order states, and orders United Financial's owners to also pay legal expenses of the Indiana State Bar Association.
The bar association brought the case, which was overseen by Commissioner Viola Taliaferro. The state supreme court, which has jurisdiction over unlawful-practice cases, confirmed Taliaferro's order on the repayment plan.
The attorney general's office initially estimated that more than 1,300 Hoosiers were eligible for more than $3 million in restitution. According to the most recent court order, there are 1,153 people eligible, and United Financial still owes $2.4 million to 1,007 of those people who submitted claims.
If the Folletts stick to the court-ordered schedule, it will take until the end of 2018 for everyone to receive full restitution. Because of the seven-year payment plan, the order calls for the Attorney General's Office to issue partial payments as money comes in. The remaining customers are owed an average $2,375.
The Folletts had proposed paying $15,000 per month, which would have taken until mid-2017 for even half their former customers—many of whom were elderly—to be paid.
The court's order covers only United Financial customers who bought estate plans after June 6, 2006, but other lawsuits are seeking to reach further in the company's history. At least two class-action suits could involve 4,000 or more Indiana clients who paid United Financial's fees before that date.
One of the suits, filed by Indianapolis retiree Richard Kennard, alleges that United Financial talked clients out of their existing wills, and that the estate plans they sold were ineffective.
After shutting down in Indiana, the Folletts and their sons, Richard and Beau, started other firms, including United Financial Resources in Sarasota, Fla.
Under the Jan. 20 court order, any of the 23 different business entities associated with the Folletts is liable for the repayment.
Taliaferro found each of the Folletts in contempt of court because they failed to appear for a hearing last June, but she delayed punishment in the event that they fail to make the scheduled payments.