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Griffin Appeal Is Road Kill

A slow news cycle finally ended today with a local story. The Griffins are a large Northern Kentucky family which owned a rendering business (think road kill and restaurant grease) that was sold for $840 million in 2010. The business was operated along traditional gender roles with the males running the business and the women not participating.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $584 verdict against two of the Griffin brothers in favor of three of their sisters. The verdict stemmed from the brothers’ handling of their parents’ estates two and three decades ago. The sisters became aware that something might have been amiss with the way the estates were handled when a piece of real estate they should have inherited was transferred to the family company for $1 in 2010 to facilitate the sale of the company. A federal court’s award of $178 million to each daughter was the subject of the appeal.

Four points and one disclaimer:

1. In the interest of full disclosure, half of my life ago I worked for the firm which represented the Griffin sons although I have no knowledge of the family or the matter.

2. I remain surprised that some of the claims by the sisters are not barred by the statute of limitations because the parents died 20 and 30 years ago respectively and their estates were probated then.

3. Good estate planning documents and/or a buy sell agreement which provided that the family business was to be transferred to the sons would have prevented most of this dispute.

4. The Supreme Court only hears cases involving questions of law or where courts differ on legal interpretation of an issue. Neither seems to apply here so this case is likely over.

5. Sale of real estate for $1? One would think that people in the rendering business would certainly know the mantra that pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

Photo Copyright:  Bruce Crippen/Cincinnati Business Courier 

 

 

Road Kill Leads to Will Contest

Close to home, the four daughters of the founder of Griffin Industries, an animal rendering and food recycling company located in Greater Cincinnati, are suing 3 of their brothers for allegedly cheating them out of their inheritance.  They are also suing the law firm that advised the company and several family members.  To make their claim, they are relying on the federal RICO statute which was crafted to combat organized crime in the 1970s and alleging that their brothers were part of a racketeering enterprise.  Their mother died in 1985 and their father died in 1995.  The father had executed a trust in 1967.  Griffin Industries was sold for $840 million in 2010.

Many points:

1. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work for the law firm being sued in the case.  I have no knowledge of the matter other than what is in the linked article.

2.  In the small world category, my law school professor, Robert Blakey, crafted the RICO statute when he was a Senate staffer and the issue of civil RICO actions was a frequent law review topic in the mid-80s.

3.  At some time between 1967 and 1995, the father should have revised his will and trust to reflect the current status of the business, his current finances, and the differing contributions of the family members to the business.

4.  The case is being litigated in federal court under a RICO theory presumably because the statute of limitations for litigating a will and trust contest has long since expired.

5.  With $840 million to be divided among family members, one would think that there were enough spoils for everyone to get along especially those not involved in the business operations and its success.

6.  $840 million is an incredible number for a business that started with collecting road kill.  Rendering seems to be the ultimate recycling business.  And most profitable, too.

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All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.