News Release

US Department of Labor recovers more than $9.3M for Minnesota Employee Stock Ownership Plan after investigation finds plan overpaid for shares

Order protects retirement fund of Kurt Manufacturing Company ESOP eligible employees

MINNEAPOLIS – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered more than $9.3 million for participants of a Minneapolis manufacturing company’s employee stock ownership plan after the fund overpaid for company stock in 2011, under the terms of a consent judgment entered in a federal court.

 Entered in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota, the judgment ordered the ESOP’s previous trustee – Reliance Trust Company – to restore $8,409,090 to the plan to resolve a lawsuit filed by the department. The court also ordered Reliance to pay an $840,909 penalty for violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The action follows an investigation by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and subsequent lawsuit alleging Reliance caused the ESOP to overpay when it purchased the remaining shares of Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc. stock for $39 million in October 2011.

Kurt Manufacturing Company board members and fiduciaries of the company's ESOP – Steven R. Carlsen, Paul A. Lillyblad and Kelli Watson – will restore $984,042 to the plan. The lawsuit alleged that, as the ESOP’s fiduciaries, the board members failed to monitor Reliance’s determination of the stock’s value and allowed the company to purchase it for more than its true value. The court also ordered the directors to pay a $215,957 penalty for violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In total, the department recovered $9,393,132 for the participants in the Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

 The three Kurt board members also agreed to not participate in the Kurt’s stock appreciation rights plan; forego their right as of July 1, 2021, to any future contributions from Kurt to the supplemental executive retirement plan and rescind agreements that provided termination severance payments of their contract salaries for two years. The court barred Lillyblad and Watson from serving as fiduciaries of the ESOP in the future and barred Carlsen from serving as a fiduciary to any ERISA-covered plans.

“This settlement restores employees’ hard-earned retirement funds of the Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan, and ensures executives responsible for the overpriced purchase of stock receive no future benefits from their decision,” said Employee Benefits Security Administration Acting Regional Director Mark Underwood in Kansas City, Missouri. “Fiduciaries must always work in the best interest of the fund. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration is committed to ensuring the integrity of employee benefit programs and holding those who violate the law accountable.”

Employers and workers can reach EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans. Learn more about EBSA.

Walsh v. U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

Civil Case No. 17-cv-04540-SRN/ECW


Employee Benefits Security Administration
January 6, 2022
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Media Contact: Scott Allen
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Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
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