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News Release

Labor Department Sues Albuquerque Officials For Violations Affecting Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

The U. S. Department of Labor has sued Albuquerque, N.M.-based Reams Communications, Inc. doing business as ValuLine Long Distance, and its officials for a series of prohibited transactions that have reduced the value of the company-sponsored employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

The ESOP was established by Reams Communications in January 1, 1992. It had 102 participants and $1,093,631 in assets as of Dec. 31, 1995.

The defendants are the company president, secretary and plan trustee Melvin Reams and vice president Tim Keefer; Fred Wilson, Jr. of Lubbock, Tex., a shareholder and board of directors member; as well as Amey Reams and Sheila Reams Keefer, considered in the lawsuit to be parties-in-interest.

The department’s allegations center on an April 1995 vote to sell approximately 80 percent of the company’s assets to TCA Long Distance, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of TCA Communications, Inc., from which Melvin Reams and Tim Keefer personally received $2.5 million dollars as non-compete payments. At the time, the plan owned approximately 51 percent of Reams Communications and the department alleged that Melvin Reams violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when he voted the unallocated ESOP shares and the ESOP shares allocated to participants’ accounts in favor of the sale. Keefer was cited for his failure to monitor and/or remove Reams as a trustee when this action occurred.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Melvin Reams caused the plan to purchase 416 shares of Reams Communications stock owned by Fred Wilson, Jr. for $114,440, an amount exceeding the fair market value of the stocks.

The department is seeking to have the defendants disgorge any profits, reimburse the plan for the losses plus interest, to permanently bar the company, Melvin Reams and Tim Keefer from acting as fiduciaries to any plan covered by ERISA, to remove Melvin Reams from his plan position and to appoint an independent trustee to manage the plan. To accomplish the recovery of money for the plan, the department further is seeking to have the individual accounts of Melvin Reams and Tim Keefer forfeited and reallocated to the other participants if these defendants do not otherwise restore losses to the plan.

The complaint resulted from an investigation conducted by the Dallas Regional Office of the department’s Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration into alleged violations of federal pension law. The complaint was entered in federal district court in Albuquerque on Oct. 28.

(Herman v. Reams Communication, Inc., et al.)
Civil Action No. 99-CV 1250

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7755.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Contact Name: Diana Petterson
Phone Number: 214. 767.4776, ext. 222
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Phone Number: 202) 219-8921

Employee Benefits Security Administration
October 29, 1999
Release Number