The Tribune Bankruptcy and Breach of Fiduciary Duty Litigation Over its ESOP

I had a whole line of things I was planning to blog on, but events keep overtaking them. Today, that is the story of the Tribune bankruptcy, and its effect, detailed here, on the Tribune ESOP. We have all been watching the booming industry in filing ERISA breach of fiduciary duty cases based on the latest events in the market with, for the most part, some skepticism, as we try to deduce which ones are legitimate and whether some reflect just a piling on in the pursuit of settlements and accompanying legal fees. However, you will recall that, not too long ago and in a very prescient move, a number of participants in the Tribune’s ESOP filed a breach of fiduciary duty suit related to Sam Zell’s use of the ESOP stock in the transaction by which Zell or entities he controlled acquired the Tribune; we now are learning that this apparently deeply flawed transaction (time will tell, but all indications suggest it was deeply flawed right from the get go) placed the ESOP plan participants’ holdings at greater risk than the assets of others involved in funding the transaction, including Zell himself. Targeting the fiduciaries for possibly having allowed the ESOP assets to be used in a more risky way than others were willing to do with their own investments sure smells like a pretty credible theory to me.