Archive for Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Shareholders battle for control of Topeka insurance company

June 10, 2003


— Control of a politically deep insurance company remained unknown Monday with some ballots for the company's board of directors under court supervision.

"We're kind of at the Florida hanging chad situation," said Harlan Priddle, board chairman of First American Capital Corp.

Two founders and former officers of the Topeka-based company, Rick Meyer and Michael Fink, are pushing for a new slate of directors, while Priddle, a former state secretary of agriculture and secretary of commerce, wants an inside slate of candidates that includes former state Senate President Bud Burke and other politically connected Kansans, such as former Lawrence mayor Ed Carter.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger recently intervened by issuing a letter that said proxies, or votes, gathered by the Meyer-Fink group couldn't be used. That group holds about 14 percent of the company's stock, according to court records.

Praeger's office sided with the Priddle group after having been given "documents which raise questions regarding the plans" of the Meyer-Fink group, Praeger's office said in a letter. Praeger has declined to say what those concerns are.

Meyer and Fink sought a court order to allow its votes to count, saying that First American was trying to deprive a substantial number of shareholders their voting rights.

Shawnee County State District Judge Franklin Theis put in place a temporary order that allowed First American to gather ballots last week at its annual meeting of shareholders, but he prohibited the company from certifying the final results. The court ordered the votes from the Meyer-Fink group to be delivered to the court for review.

The company has not released any totals from the vote. John Friedan, an attorney for Meyer and Fink, said First American knew the election results and should tell shareholders who won.

Meyer and Fink also issued a letter to shareholders, saying that the documents referred to by Praeger's office were provided by persons associated with First American and reflected "the lack of competence, experience, and integrity of the present First American management."

Friedan described the company as having about $18 million in assets and 5,000 shareholders. It primarily deals in life insurance products.

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