ST. PAUL — On the day before a decisive vote that could oust them, two trustees of one of Minnesota’s oldest philanthropies were dealt a legal setback on Wednesday, April 28, in their efforts to remain on the board of the Bremer Financial Corp. The board oversees St. Paul-based Bremer Bank.
In February, the board chose not to nominate Otto Bremer Trust trustees Brian Lipschultz and Daniel Reardon for reelection to the board on April 29, when the annual meeting of shareholders will vote to seat the corporation’s governing body.
A third trustee, Charlotte Johnson, chose to retire from the corporate board in April 2020.
All three trustees remain at the helm of the philanthropy, which effectively serves as the corporation’s parent company.
Both men then sought a temporary injunction effectively freezing the decision.
On Wednesday, Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb responded by denying the request for temporary injunctive relief. Awsumb, in his 11-page decision, noted “it is undisputed that BFC (Bremer Financial Corporation) has no legal or corporate obligation to allow a trustee of OBT (Otto Bremer Trust) to serve on its board.”
In a written announcement last February, the board of the Bremer Financial Corp. found Lipschultz and Reardon “unfit to serve as directors of BFC,” and made specific mention of previous allegations of “self-dealing, excessive compensation and spending, hostile work environment, and a shift in focus for (the trust) away from charitable giving toward financial services.”
Bank officials have said trustees’ efforts to sell voting shares in the corporation to out-of-state investors would set the bank up for a forced sale and leave a consumer-minded farm lender in the hands of aggressive East Coast investors. The trustees have said a sale could net millions of dollars for the philanthropy, which would benefit the region as a whole.