Charles W. Ranson Consulting, Inc.

Trusts & Estates Litigation Consulting & Expert Witness Testimony

Case History

Engaged by Dorr Law, Madison, Georgia

Was engaged by the Trustee through his counsel Charles E. Dorr of Madison, Georgia. Litigation stemmed from a dispute between the Trustee and his two siblings regarding reasonable compensation for his services as Trustee of their late father’s estate. The Trustee administered three trusts domiciled in Florida established by his father. At the time of his father’s death, total trust assets net of estate taxes totaled $19.7 million. After 4+ years of administration, the Trustee distributed to the two-sibling residual beneficiaries and himself an equal one-third (1/3) share of $70.2 million. I reviewed the actions of the Trustee throughout his administration and opined on reasonable trustee compensation based on the 1958 Florida Supreme Court ruling in West Coast Hospital v. Florida National Bank. I wrote a preliminary, supplemental, and rebuttal expert report for the arbitrator, was deposed by opposing counsel, and testified at the final hearing. The Arbitrator awarded the Trustee $2.5 million in trustee fees.

Engaged by Meagher & Geer PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Defense counsel for a charitable institution offering trustee services to donors of its charitable planned giving program. A donor to the charity agreed to establish and fund a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, with the donor to receive unitrust payments and the charity as the remainder beneficiary of the donated property. After years of administration, the trustee was unable to liquidate the donated real estate property. The donor sued the trustee for breach of fiduciary duty in Federal Court in Miami, Florida. In my written opinion and testimony in deposition, I opined that the trustee exercised reasonable care in their administration of the trust property and fulfilled their fiduciary obligations under the terms and purpose of the charitable remainder unitrust and in compliance with the IRS standards for such a charitable trust. The case was settled before trial.

Engaged by Long Reimer Winegar Beppler LLC, Jackson, Wyoming
Fleishman Bonner & Rocco LLP, New York, New York

Counsel to plaintiff beneficiary, who claimed the trustee of her late husband’s estate breached his fiduciary duties, failed to exercise reasonable care and engaged in conflicts of interest in his administration of the estate. After reviewing the case file, I rendered a preliminary and a supplemental report and was deposed by opposing counsel. Case settled prior to trial.

Engaged by King & Jones, Chicago, Illinois

Counsel for the Personal Representative (PR) of a complex probate estate in Florida. The decedent was a highly successful entrepreneur with extensive complex real estate holdings, an Ocala, Florida thoroughbred horse racing farm, and an extensive collection of thoroughbred racing horses. He died in 2008 at the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), naming his daughter, one of his five children, as PR of his estate. The personal representative prudently and diligently worked to settle the estate’s assets; however, after eight years of administration, the PR was sued by three of her siblings with a claim of breach of fiduciary duty for failing to administer the estate in the best interest of all beneficiaries. Counsel asked that I review the estate administration record and the actions taken by the PR and the PR’s advisors and render an opinion as to whether the PR discharged her duties by fulfilling her duty of loyalty to the estate and residuary beneficiary class. In my written opinion, I found that the PR exercised reasonable care and caution in her administration of the estate assets and reasonably relied on third-party experts and advisors regarding the disposition of certain estate assets. I was deposed by opposing counsel and testified at trial regarding Florida PR standard of care analysis, liability analysis, and the PR’s petition for additional compensation over and above the statutory PR commission in Florida. The Court granted the PR’s Motion for Summary Judgment, dismissing the breach of fiduciary duty claim, and awarded the PR’s petition for statutory and additional compensation for her administration of the estate.

Engaged by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Columbia, South Carolina
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, New York, New York

Plaintiff counsel for an insurance company in a breach of fiduciary duty claim against the national bank institutional trust division in South Carolina Federal Court. Plaintiff claimed defendant bank breached its fiduciary duty by failing to administer the trust prudently, failed to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of a third-party investment advisor and engaged in prohibited conflict of interest transactions with the third-party investment advisor. Plaintiff damages expert estimated damages in excess of $159 million. I wrote an expert report and was deposed by opposing counsel. Case settled before trial under federal court protective order.

Engaged by Solomon Dwiggins & Freer, Las Vegas, Nevada

Plaintiff counsel for two income beneficiaries of a multigenerational testamentary trust valued at $1.7 billion in 2013. The two income beneficiaries alleged that the family patriarch and national bank co-trustees breached their fiduciary duty and duty of impartiality in their administration of the trust, and also alleged unjust determination of income distributions to current income beneficiaries. I reviewed the case file documentation and deposition of fact witness and opined on the standard of care a corporate co-trustee is bound by in administering a trust with competing beneficial interests, and the duty of impartiality requiring the trustee to balance the competing interests of different situated beneficiaries in a fair and reasonable manner. I wrote an expert report and a rebuttal report and was deposed by opposing counsel. Case settled prior to trial.

Engaged by Foley & Lardner, Orlando, Florida

Counsel for the Trustees of the Robert Rauschenberg Trust.  The case was to determine reasonable trustee fees based on the 1958 Florida Supreme Court ruling in West Coast Hospital v. Florida National Bank. I reviewed the case file documentation and fact witness depositions, wrote an expert report, was deposed by opposing counsel and testified at trial in June 2014. On August 1, 2014, Lee County Florida Circuit Judge Jay B. Rosman awarded the trustees $24.6 million in trustee fees. Beneficiaries appealed to the Florida Third District Court of Appeals, where the panel unanimously upheld the trial court ruling. See Case Spotlight 

Engaged by Trenam Kemkerk, St. Petersburg, Florida

Counsel to the defendant debtor and cross-complainant. At issue was a commercial mortgage foreclosure case with a crossclaim by the defendant for breach of fiduciary duty by a national bank. After reviewing the case file documentation and fact witness deposition testimony, I wrote an expert report regarding the bank’s fiduciary duty /standard of care in advising a bank client who paid the bank advisory fees for guiding him in the development and management of the client’s underlying commercial real estate venture. I was deposed by opposing counsel. Case settled mid-trial.

Engaged by Corr Cronin, Seattle, Washington

Counsel to plaintiff class alleging a national bank’s institutional trust division failed to perform to a commercially reasonable industry standard of care in administration and management of EB-5 escrow accounts. Escrow agent is required to follow the escrow instructions of the escrow agreement and to exercise good faith and reasonable skill and has the duty to deliver goods on completion of the terms of the escrow agreement. I wrote an expert report that documented the deficiencies of and gross deviations from the standard of care by the defendant national bank. Case settled prior to my deposition by opposing counsel.

Engaged by MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton LLP, Erie, Pennsylvania

Counsel to the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust who claimed a national trust company providing custodial services to the successor trustee breached their fiduciary duty owed to the beneficiary by engaging in unauthorized lending to the successor trustee personally. I reviewed the case file documentation and fact witness depositions and rendered a written opinion that the national trust company failed to exercise reasonable care and caution in their administration of the custodial account, engaged in improper lending practices to the successor trustee and improperly accepted irrevocable trust assets as collateral for the loans to the successor trustee. The case settled prior to trial.

Engaged by Reed Smith, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Counsel to a national bank & trust company defendant, to render an opinion as to whether defendant bank performed to industry standard its management of trust assets and its duties pursuant to the Investment Management Agreement (IMA) and corresponding Investment Policy Statement (IPS).  Plaintiff individual trustee claimed defendant bank breached its fiduciary duty by failing to invest trust assets in compliance with the IMA and IPS. I reviewed the case file documentation and key fact witness depositions. I rendered a written opinion that the defendant bank in fact complied with the terms of the IMA and invested the trust assets within the parameters of the IPS within a reasonable timeframe. The case settled prior to my deposition.

Engaged by Dunlop Fiore LLC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Attorneys for the plaintiff banking institution, to render an opinion on the fiduciary obligations of corporate officers owed to their corporate employer during the term of their service. At issue was the fiduciary relationship senior corporate officers have to their employer during the term of their employment. The case centered on a competing mortgage origination and servicing firm’s recruiting and lifting out an entire senior banking management team, causing the collapse of the banks subsidiary specialty mortgage business. I wrote an expert report and a rebuttal report. Case settled prior to being deposed by opposing counsel.

Engaged by Nenner Namerow, PC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Counsel for the estate of a decedent, to render an opinion in a wrongful death case involving the assets of a special needs trust in which a national bank was the sole trustee. I reviewed the case file and key fact witness depositions and prepared a written report outlining the fiduciary obligations and the standard of care a corporate trustee is bound by in the administration of a special needs trust. The case settled prior to trial.

Engaged by Solomon Dwiggins & Freer, LTD, Las Vegas, Nevada

Counsel to the defendant RIA / trustee, to render an opinion and write an expert report in litigation between a registered investment advisor / trustee and the income beneficiary of family trusts with a spendthrift clause. Case settled prior to my deposition.