Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Allstate accuses Baker & Butler of securities fraud on Lost Wabbit bonds

Allstate Insurance filed suit against the law firms Baker Donelson and Butler Snow on July 15, 2011. Allstate accuses the two law firms of committing fraud and withholding vital information when the insurance company purchased all of the PID bonds for Lost Rabbit at $18,605,000 on July 17, 2008. Lost Rabbit is a planned development community by the Reservoir in Madison County. The development has been plagued by numerous financial problems for the last few years.

The lawsuit states a Public Improvement District (PID) was created to build infrastructure and "collect special assessments towards repayment of the bonds." Butler Snow was the bond counsel for the issuance of the bonds and Baker Donelson created the district and issued the bonds as well. Allstate states it:

"requested and the District caused the Baker Firm to prepare an opinion letter directed to the Plaintiff verifying that the District was properly and validly formed. The Baker opinion letter represented to the Plaintiff that the District was duly established and validly existed as a public improvement district with the right and lawful authority to fund, finance, and construct the development....'

Allstate then argues the letters produced by the two firms:

"contain misrepresentations of material facts and failures to disclose material facts relating to the establishment, legal validity, and authority of the District and the District's power to levy and collect special assessments on the revenues which were pledged to repay the bonds."

Allstate claims the PID was not created in accordance with the law and the two firms hid that "fact". Allstate accuses both firms of committing securities fraud under Illinois and Mississippi law and requests the court to approve a rescission of its purchase as well as awarding it court costs and attorney's fees.

What is interesting is an item appeared on the agenda for the July 18, 2011 meeting of the Madison County Board of Supervisors advertising a petition to rescind the PID. However, the petition was withdrawn before the meeting. What is interesting in this complaint is there are no real details of the alleged fraud or what facts were withheld from Allstate. I'm inclined to think this complaint is a shot across the bow and more will come later.


Anonymous said...

You ain't seen nothing yet. The House of Downtown Jackson cards will dwarf all.

Might be time for another 'near stroke'.

Anonymous said...

I guess Allstate didn't like the attempts to force them into writing the bonds off as a bad debt.

There is much wrong with this development and the PID and has been for a while, and the whole thing has been propped up by some pretty questionable tactics.

I would not want to be the developer, the PID board or the PRVWSD in the months to come. And I for sure wouldn't want to be an owner out there!

Anonymous said...

Who are the actually the lawyers that did this work for the 2 law firms??

Anonymous said...


Shadowfax said...

Most frightening of all (for a Madison Countian) is your comment about the board of supervisors. I cannot imagine these clowns having anything of this nature on the agenda, much less discussing or voting on it. What a scary prospect. (As Johnson whips his white cape under the table and Crosby abstains).

Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There are two basic screw-ups in formation of the PID, allegedly. First, the PID statute requires that the owners of the real property sign the petition to establish the PID. The idea is that an owner has to agree to submit his land to a PID assessment. Prior to filing the PID the developers had sold 142 lots. These are ground leases from the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The developer had the master lease, and each time it sold a lot, it would partially assign its lease for that lot to the purchaser. These are 60-year ground leases on which people build houses, mortgagable and insurable and assessed by the county as real property. BS was representing the developer in forming the PID and did not list any of these owners in the petition, just the PRVWSD. BS represented to the County that all of the owners of real estate had consented to the PID. Immediately after the PID was formed, the developer via BS filed a petition to amend the description of the PID to delete the 142 lots that were sold prior to the formation of the PID. The PID statute permits an amendment, but requires the developer to publish notice in the newspaper, hold public hearings, and take other actions. Screw-up #2 was the developer via BS followed none of these steps, just had the supervisors adopt a resolution amending the description of the PID on the consent docket without giving any notice or hearing. Then the PID as amended issued $18 million in bonds. Baker Donelson as PID counsel gave an opinion to Allstate that the PID was validly formed. BS as bond counsel gave an opinion to Allstate that the bonds were valid. The PID assessment was the only source of payment for the $18 million in bonds, so no PID, no bonds, $18 million goes poof.

shadowfax said...

"Madison Is Not For Sale".

Anonymous said...

Look for Baker Donelson to settle quickly, because this lawsuit is interfering with their acquisition of the Brunini firm. Settlement will be painful in the short term, but when they look at the long-term billings that they will get from Brunini’s clients like Trustmark, St. Dominics, Ingalls and Cellular South, BD will make a business decision that the long-term gain outweighs the short-term pain.

Reed said...

While neither as wrongheaded as the downtown projects nor as incompetently executed as HarborWalk, the Lost Rabbit township is troubled by some of the same problems. Most particularly is the collapse of the housing market that has put numerous developments here and elsewhere in desperate straits, but LR has a few other flaws, not the least of which is the hubris of the developers buying into the whole city of Madison myth, i.e. that all the rich people in the metro area are clamoring to live in red brick buildings in MaryHawkinsville and will pay 2x-3x the price of a similar sized home in Ridgeland, Flowood, Clinton, Pearl, Brandon or Byram just for the privilege of writing Madison, MS as their address.

I'm not deriding Madison. It is indeed a nice community and home to many of the area's wealthy, but central MS does not have a huge reserve of people willing to spend the better part of a million bucks for a Carriage House at the far end of Hoy Road, even in the best of economic times. Other developments in the area saw similar issues (Hoy Farms, St. Ives, Charlestowne), but they have slowly come about because they are more reasonably priced and are not so remote.

Driving to LR, one feels removed from Madison. Perhaps that's the desired effect, but I contend (and have heard several people comment) that the location is inconvenient. People who want "country living" often want land and solitude, but LR is designed with little personal space. The houses have crackerbox yards and minimal privacy. That works better for a development that's closer in (e.g. Brisage, corner of Madison Ave & Old Canton, which is conceptually similar, but far more convenient to the amenities of the city).

9:41 must be close to the situation as he/she has a great understanding of the details of the PID situation. I'm just a layman and such governmental and legal prestidigitation confounds me, but suffice it to say there's trouble at the end of Hoy Road, be it dueling lawyers and public improvement districts, or just a dearth of cash-rich homebuyers eager to plunk down a small fortune for a tiny lot in a sparsely populated community.

Still, I'd rather live there than spend $2000/month to live in a 1250sqft flat within walking distance of the bus depot...but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute Reed. Are you saying this slice of Duany new urbanism isn't Shangri-La? That can't be. What will the creative class do?

Anonymous said...

Downtown residential is full. Commercial is rebounding from the renaissance attacks. Entertainment is improving and the best restaurant within 100 miles is there. Downtown is our face to the world. Why do you hate your face, Reed and 6:09? You must be ugly.

Anonymous said...

I adore the architecture there. But as mixed use it's silly. It is truly out of the way. Perhaps if it had developed more slowly as a purely residential space it would have worked better. And, yes, the lots are too close to each other for comfort. IF I owned it, I would redevelop it immediately (larger lots)

Shadowfax said...

Lost Rabbit has as many occupied 'houses' for sale as it has vacant lots, or so it seems. Nobody was duped into purchasing in LR. Clearly they got what they wanted and what was being advertised. I notice they have pulled up all the 'for residents only' signs on the banks of the Rez. Of course those signs were there to begin with to keep 'local democrats' from sitting on buckets with cane poles.

I almost gave 'Reed' some credibility until his last sentence indicating a desire to live near the bus station. My God! Can you be serious?

And if other posters think Madison is still not attracting new home purchasers by the dozens each month, you must be drinking Ben Allen's Kool Aid.

Reed said...

Shadowfax - went right over your head, huh? I said I would rather live at LR than Standard Life, because walking distance to the bus depot is about all they can trumpet.

But I'm glad to see Ben Allen lurking in the comments (11:32) with his insult tactics and broad claims as to the Eden-like situation in downtown. Glad to hear that General Jim Barksdale and his Renaissance assault on the city are being rebuked, because everybody knows it wasn't crime, tax rates, decaying infrastructure, obstructionist city government and a fleeing consumer class that has hurt Jackson retail as much as a nefarious plot by enemies of the city to open a new shopping center. I guess we'll all be shopping at Metrocenter before you know it now that commercial is rebounding from the renaissance attacks.

And that murder of a security guard on Fortification? We can't count that toward downtown crime stats because it was a whole three blocks away, huh Ben? Nice to know you consider 65% full occupancy, including the corporate apartments some businesses have chosen to rent for their traveling staff.

And what is this Ambrosia-serving restaurant that is better than Mint, Char, Kathryn's, Shapley's, Parker House, Chez Ro, etc? Please don't say Hal & Mal's. Even you, Ben Allen, aren't deluded enough to believe that.

But you are right about one thing...I am ugly.

J. Kev said...

I know of exactly one lawyer at each of the defendant firms who are decent human beings. Well, maybe two at Butler Snow.

As such, I'm having a huge gut laugh at this. The only local firm that might have a higher arrogance per capita quotient is Foreman Perry.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of jerks.

Anonymous said...

There is 0 to the rumor about a BD and Brunini merger.

Anonymous said...

!0:58, you must know that Duany is a con man. A new urban center in the middle of no where? Who would fall for such a scam?

Anonymous said...

Still laughing. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Duany is a revered prophet in the minds of the Free Press cult.

red state woman said...

My hat goes off to you did you score this document?
My guess the big firms involved were hoping to keep this under wraps.
You are the best investigative journalist in Mississippi...and perhaps the best in the south.
Thanks for making our mornings interesting!

Anonymous said...

Could someone explain to me what this has to do with Jackson? All the Jackson and Ben Allen comments are confusing me. Neither firm is in Downtown Jackson, and the development is in Madison.

Is there something that I'm missing?

Anonymous said...

Who can forget this paean to Lost Rabbit from Ladd's "partner"?

Anonymous said...

Is there something that I'm missing?

Are you new here 9:57 am?

Anonymous said...

10:02 I wouldn't consider myself new. I've been reading this blog several times a week for about 3 years. I understand most references to the negatives in Jackson and Ladd's paper. It just seems strange when things like this seem to have very little to do with Jackson, yet Jackson gets beat down in the comments.

I guess I'm just over all the negative comments about Jackson. It seems like people use anything to talk bad about Jackson. The news could report that it will be hot and humid today, and people would find some way to say something negative about Jackson.

I totally agree that Jackson has tons of problems and needs new leadership in almost all positions, but it seems like the Jackson has become the butt of all jokes on all comment sites. The whole thing is like beating up on a handicap kid. Everyone in Mississippi knows there are problems, but instead of trying to help or discussing solutions, people just continue to dog out the city.

If Jackson continues to dwindle, it will impact the entire region, so we're all invested in the rise or fall of the city.

Reed said...

10:20 -

I can only speak for myself. My first post was almost entirely regarding LR (although I did throw a dig in there at the downtown evangelists). The second post was a response to the absurd post about the assault on Jackson by the Renaissance partners.

I am a critical voice, but I attempt to direct my criticism at individuals, particularly the senseless voices who endeavor to promote unrealistic ideals and to ignore the problematic realities of the city. Sorry if that bothers you.

Solutions? Remove the incompetent and ego-driven city government (Stokes, Lumumba, JohnsonJr.) and quit alienating the white citizenry in some tacit campaign of revenge for the ills of the last century. But these solutions will not be enacted. Instead we'll see more things renamed for Medgar Evers and more money dumped on frivolous projects while the infrastructure continues to fail.

When Hovvy repaves Ridgewood Road from Lakeland to County Line and Riverside Drive from Power APAC to the park, that's when I'll believe the corner has been turned, but that ain't happening until there are 35 blues clubs in downtown, at least from what I'm seeing.

Anonymous said...

Duany is the prophet for the Free Pressers and all the self-proclaimed hipster architects (young and old). But, I guess they are one and the same.
My day will go SOOO much better to know that you are over the negative remarks about Jacktown. I must say that I find your uncaring remarks about handicap kids out of character for such an enlightened soul. One thing that I guess I'm too ignorant to understand is how it is that Jacktroit continues to decline and yet somehow the surrounding areas continue to thrive. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to educate me about that.

Anonymous said...

"If Jackson continues to dwindle, it will impact the entire region, so we're all invested in the rise or fall of the city."

A contagion theory and a myth not supported by the facts on the ground. On par with the creative claptrap Allen spreads about Mississippi, the state, losing another Congressional seat if Jackson, the city, isn't mortgaged to the hilt to rebuild downtown. Spare us.

J. Kev said...

Anon 9:57 and 10:02 --

Really? Why the negative comments about Jackson?

I took the time to read the 2003 article you linked from Jackson Free Pravda.

Very first comment after the article:

And I'll betcha that the residents of Lost Rabbit will be, at the minimum, 95+% white.

Then, the Queen of White Guilt Liberalism herself, Ladd, chimes in:

I thought that, too, when hearing about how much the property and building is going to cost. With the current income break-outs in the area, that's probably the sad truth.

You get it? Even when the Bolshevik publisher says something nominally positive about Madison, his readers and "girl"friend start playing the race card right out of the gate.

To the Fondrenites, if you elect not to live somewhere with lousy schools and where criminals rampage with impugnity, you're a racist. Pure and simple.

To hell with the City of Jackson, the people who run it, and their white-guilt enablers/apologists at the JFP. The place is a sewer.

Anonymous said...

"Jacktroit"??? Geez, and you don't call this Jackson bashing and you consider yourself enlightened? By who's standards? I don't know what about the denigration of downtown Jackson is all about. Since both the King Edward and the Standard Life and all of the other apartments in downtown Jackson are full, I guess some people have chosen to disagree with you by their simple action of moving. Parlor Market is an outstanding restaurant, by anybody's standards.

It also looks like there are enough problems and challenges to go around with everybody and everywhere in the metro area. Ask Barksdale/Buster Bailey/Andrew Mattiace why the Renaissance isn't totally full, as they had projected, and why they don't have the same "high dollar" stores they projected. Ask BS and BD and LR developer if all is rosy in their non-downtown development project.

Just saying . . .

Anonymous said...

Lost Rabbit has a lot of potential, and there is nothing like it in the entire state. Now is the time to buy if you can get a deal.

Anonymous said...

i refuse to believe that a lawyer of such an elite firm would ever be accused of FRAUD... what has the world come to. Maybe these guys can rep the fraziers and throw both of these bond issues in one case and have a towffer... Astonished at the accusations

Anonymous said...

Since both the King Edward and the Standard Life and all of the other apartments in downtown Jackson are full, I guess some people have chosen to disagree with you by their simple action of moving.

You think your point is proven by the occupancy of a staggering 140 (total) apartments in the KE & SL buildings? BFD. Jackson loses more population in one year than the grand total living in all apartments downtown.

Anonymous said...

Okay young Watkins, please direct me to the site that lists the occupancy rates for these properties. Surely there is a way to verify what you and your daddy are saying.

Anonymous said...

I see that C.E Frazier Construction Company has a new location in Destin! Wonder how long the fraud will last there?

Anonymous said...

12:17, Lost Rabbit is a good development located in the proper place , which is not in the middle of no where. And on the edge of a small metro area with a dying central city. For new this plan to work there has to be a lot of people and it just be large enough to support business as well.This deal was a con all the way.

Reed said...

2:12 - I think con is harsh. I do think it was ill-conceived. The 2000s love affair with New Urbanism has peaked and Lost Rabbit was an attempt to fit it into a non-urban setting. The whole motivation for this model is the option to bring everyone together, where residents can walk to work, shop, school, church, etc.

It's a sweet idea - part Mayberry, part 1930s Paris, but it just doesn't translate as well as advertised. It is a cruel bit of irony that LR residents have to drive everywhere, moreso even than those in less hip neighborhoods like Northbay and Wright's Mill. The most retail LR will see (if any) is a fancy convenience store/bait shop and maybe a small cafe.

This model has had more success in Fondren than anywhere else in the Jackson area. I know they're trying to push it over by JSU in the University Place development. Stand or fall, both of those locations are better suited to such a layout than a remote boat ramp off the Trace.

I drive through LR every so often and almost every completed home has a for sale sign in front. There are a few hardy residents, but most people aren't as Pavlovian as the hipsters in Fondren and, therefore, aren't rushing to dump loads of cash into little more than a nice idea. It's a shame that cooler heads didn't prevail, because the development could have been nice. As it stands, it will be years (decades even) before LR becomes fully occupied.

Honestly, I think I'll see water taxis ferrying people to Hotel Valencia before Lost Rabbit is fully occupied.

Anonymous said...

Duany is a "dare to be great" type con man. He has a national network of sales reps.One size fits all and all need it.

Anonymous said...

It appears Allstate has filed a Notice of Dismissal "without" prejudice, so this may be a temporary lull in the battle or the firms quietly settled but will now publicly act with rightous indignation. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I don't think naming the development "Lost Rabbit" did it any favors. What is that supposed to signify or what image am I supposed to conjure up? Why not "Baffled Bunny" or "Thoughtful Hare"?

Lost Rabbit sounds like redneck slang for going nowhere fast.

Anonymous said...

Lost Rabbit was the name for that property for a long long time before that development ever came into existence. Teenagers used to hunt and get drunk there in the 1960s. They shot a rabbit, left it where they shot it, and when they went back to get it and cook it, they couldn’t find it. That land has been known as Lost Rabbit ever since.

Also, all of you who are bemoaning the location are forgetting the following: LR banked on getting an exit off the Natchez Trace Parkway, which never came through. If that had happened, LR would be a hop skip and a jump (!) from the Natchez Trace exit on I-55. Hoy Road was NEVER supposed to be the primary way to get to LR. It is a project that had phenomenal local talent involved like Michael Barranco (rest his wonderful soul) and others, but for various reasons has been beset with problems. I do think it will work out eventually in the long run, perhaps when Hoy Road is widened that will help.

Anonymous said...

Even with the exit to the trace (which was always a long shot), the concept was/is flawed because the commercial area is too removed so it could only be for the people at lost rabbit. No one will drive out to lost rabbit for coffee or ice cream except the people living there so the only businesses who will make a go of it there are those convenience businesses like a drug store or a small grocery. The roads out there are weirdly laid out. you cant go two feet without having to stop or turn. there's no real main street and the "center" is way off to the north. if it ever gets completely built then maybe it will flourish, but thats just seems too unlikely.

Anderson said...

7:18, good point: it does seem a little too "planned," like someone's desktop idea of what a community should be like.

Not that I have any prospect of living there -- hell, I can't afford the house I have now!

Anonymous said...

... hell, I can't afford the house I have now!

Affordability. The metro is littered with partially completed high end subs where the developers took leave of their senses and succumbed to the false economy of cheap money.

Burke said...

I see on WLBT's website that Allstate has dropped the suit.

Shadowfax said...

Whoever believes an 'exit off the Trace' was possible for LR has no clue how the Department of The Interior functions. The feds have absolutely no interest in providing a thoroughfare for commuters. Look at what commuting has done for the Trace through Ridgeland with traffic backed up for miles on all major arteries trying to access the Trace.

'Walk to work and school'? Puleeze. The nearest school is right at five miles. Kids today don't walk five miles in six months time.

If I lived in LR, I'd be objecting to all the folks parking in the street. A firetruck can't get down some of those streets.

'Bait Store'? Puleeze, again. We all know the proletariat does not have access to a ramp or fishing bucket at LR and the bait the residents use is flown in from Paris.

Using Burwell's logic (and a few geniuses on this site), the water inside the small slip-harbor belongs to the Rabbitians. However, you wan't see that claim being made.

PS: ChokeMe Lumumba rode through there the other day in Blackmon's Bentley and six 'for sale' signs went up within hours.

Anonymous said...

Read this entire blog (and got quite a few laughs might I add!) We are anticipating a transfer to the area and spent some time recently in Lost Rabbit...absolutely love the architecture and feel of the neighborhood! It's ashamed about all of the troubles there as we would love to live there! Looked at a couple of other neighborhoods in the area too and they don't even compare in character and feel (Reunion for example). I believe we would have to take the risk, purchase a lot and build a home in LR (there's no white guilt here...LOL!). Btw, we now live outside of D.C. and the whole neighborhood with shops, grocery store, etc thing is way overated...I would much prefer the peace and quiet of LR!!!

Kingfish said...

Best advice I can give you is it is literally a buyer's market in LR. Also, if you buy, plan on keeping it because well, not much is selling out there. Just thought I'd point that out while hammered on Maker's Mark.

KaptKangaroo said...

KF is right, but there is a buyers market of highend properties across the Metro Jax area. The concern out at LR is the overlay of legal issues that could wind up making that "great buy" a money pit.

Way to go LSU. There is no better team out there!

Kingfish said...

Keep in mind one thing, you are getting stuck with the assessments while the old owners are more than likely not.

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