By Lynnley Browning – June 9, 2021
So much for trying to make amends with family.
A multimillion-dollar battle has flared up again between a wealthy Florida grandmother and her two grandsons whom she accused of mishandling her money while working at J.P. Morgan Securities, a new court filing shows.
Beverley Schottenstein, 94, the heir to a retail empire that grew to include stakes in shoe retailer DSW and clothing chain American Eagle Outfitters, moved June 8 to reopen her high-profile lawsuit against her grandsons in a Miami federal court, records show.
Her filing is the first since March 18, when she put on hold her civil lawsuit against brothers Evan and Avi Schottenstein, her grandsons, following an arrangement by the parties to resolve things outside of a courtroom. That truce broke down, and the gloves are now off, according to her latest filing in Florida’s Southern District.
“After extensive negotiations, the parties have been unable to reach agreement on the provisions and content of a written settlement agreement, and no written settlement agreement has been finalized,” the filing said.
The move by Schottenstein, a resident of the wealthy enclave of Bal Harbour, Florida, revives her effort to force her grandsons to pay her roughly $9 million as ordered by industry watchdog FINRA in February. Almost all of the money is supposed to come from Evan Schottenstein, after both brothers allegedly abused their fiduciary duty and made fraudulent misrepresentations while handling her roughly $80 million account. Evan was the senior broker on the team managing her money at the bank; younger brother Avi worked under him.
Schottenstein’s case sent shock waves across the financial advice industry because it underscores the tangles that emerge when advisors manage a relative’s money. The matriarch had accused the Wall Street bank, now operating as J.P. Morgan Advisors, and her grandsons of making unauthorized trades in risky securities known as “auto-callable structured notes,” orchestrating unauthorized investments and buying and selling shares that she didn’t pre-approve.
In all, FINRA ordered the grandsons and J.P. Morgan Securities on Feb. 5 to collectively pay her nearly $19 million. It was the regulator’s largest award in more than 2 ½ years.
Under FINRA rules, the bank took care of its part of the award within 30 days. J.P. Morgan Securities paid Schottenstein $4.7 million in compensatory damages, $4.3 million to unwind an investment in a Coatue Private Equity Fund and $172,631 in costs. Still, because the bank is a defendant in Schottenstein’s original lawsuit filed in February that sought to confirm the total FINRA award, it’s named as a defendant in Tuesday’s filing to reopen that case.
Schottenstein’s move to restart the fight with her grandsons comes after she quietly reached a deal, alluded to in her March 18 filing, to accept from at least one of them less than what FINRA ordered, and to pause her case. Under that temporary cease fire, she agreed not to force the grandsons to pay the full amount, and the grandsons agreed not to seek a court ruling to void their payments. With the lawsuit back on, that deal is off — at least for now.
Tuesday’s filing said that Schottenstein’s lawyer, Scott Igenfritz, spoke with Peter Fruin, the lawyer representing the two grandsons, the same day that Ilgenfritz filed to reopen the case. The filing said that the grandsons “oppose the relief sought” in their grandmother’s lawsuit.
Ilgenfritz declined to comment on why the negotiations broke down. Fruin did not immediately have a comment.
The extended Schottenstein family has had their share of public drama, with one granddaughter, Cathy Schottenstein, a cousin of the two brothers, describing the Wall Street bank saga on her personal website and another grandson the subject of unflattering accusations in a Manhattan court. Fees for the 43 FINRA hearing sessions for the matriarch’s dispute totaled $64,500.
Evan Schottenstein worked at J.P. Morgan Securities as a broker from 2014 to June 27, 2019, when he was fired over his handling of his grandmother’s money, according to a note the bank entered into his FINRA BrokerCheck record. Before that, he worked at Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.