Chicago Tribune, December 14, 2004 (Deborah Horan)
Rev. Jesse Jackson and about two dozen retirees and their supporters demonstrated Saturday in Chicago to protest a brokerage firm’s failure to settle a $5 million lawsuit brought after one of its brokers allegedly lost millions mishandling seniors’ retirement savings. Carrying signs that read, “Wall Street robs our street,” the retired People’s Energy workers and members of Jackson’s Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition demanded that Lehman Brothers Inc. stop using what demonstrators called stalling tactics to prevent the case, filed in August 2003, from coming before a panel of arbiters.
“Lehman has been ignoring this request until now,” Jackson said in front of Lehman Brothers offices at 190 S. LaSalle St. “These seniors worked 25, 35 years. Many of them are sick, losing homes, filing for bankruptcy. For these people justice delayed is justice denied.” The suit, brought by 24 retirees, alleges they each lost thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars when a Lehman broker invested their retirement savings in high-risk investments they contend were unsuitable for people of retirement age, according to Andrew Stoltmann, a lawyer representing the retirees.
Wayne Rada, 58, who was among the protesters Saturday, said he lost $120,000 when the stock market plunged and his portfolio plummeted, pulling him out of retirement and forcing him to find odd jobs. Freddie Nero, 57, said he lost more than $700,000. Bonita Parker, the chief operating officer at Rainbow/PUSH, said the organization got involved after the retirees complained that they had been seeking an arbitrated settlement for 18 months without success.
Stoltmann said attorneys for Lehman Brothers had filed multiple motions, including a motion to split the lawsuit into separate claims, tactics he said were aimed at preventing the case from going in front of the National Association of Securities Dealers, the entity that settles disputes.
Lehman Brothers denied the allegations. Spokeswoman Hannah Burns said that the association took almost a year to grant the motion to sever the lawsuit into separate claims and that the parties were notified of the decision in October.
“We did not stall,” Burns said.