Louisiana High Court Rejects Insurance Liquidation Case

October 16, 2008

A long-running case dating back to numerous insurance company collapses in Louisiana during the 1990s has been thrown out by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In a 6-1 decision, the high court tossed a $1.2 million award to the supposed owner of ANA Insurance Group of Metairie stemming from the liquidation of the company in the early 1990s.

Barbara Presley, who claimed ownership of the auto insurer, had sued the state, saying the two men that then-Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown put in charge of the company’s liquidation improperly tried to earn money off the company’s assets.

The high court said Presley did not have the right to sue because she wasn’t the company’s true owner.

State District Judge Janice Clark of Baton Rouge ruled for Presley in April 2006 and a state appeals court upheld the decision.

The Supreme Court said Presley’s husband, Sam, had set her up as ANA’s owner as “merely a sham” and forfeited the family’s rights to the company when he pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit racketeering.

Brown put ANA into receivership and used two contractors, Richard Bickerstaff and Charles Reichman, to sell off the company’s assets to pay ANA’s debts. The lawsuit alleged that Bickerstaff was bribing Reichman and holding some assets as they earned more money for his company.

Reichman was sentenced in 1996 to 18 months in federal prison for taking bribes. Bickerstaff was sentenced in late 1995 for a state charge of failing to report a felony and sent to a halfway house for six months.

Sam Presley was sentenced to just over six years in prison and made to forfeit personal assets. Prosecutors said Sam Presley defrauded auto insurance customers out of $7 million.

In a one-sentence dissent, Justice Chet Traylor said he would have upheld the lower court findings.

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