Indianapolis Power Employees Cry Foul Over Co. Stock Plummet

September 13, 2004 ( - Lawyers representing nearly 2,400 current and former IPALCO employees are asking that the power company workers be compensated for million of dollars in losses from company stock held in their retirement plan.

The attorneys made the request Friday in a hearing on the class action suit claiming that IPALCO – former parent company of Indianapolis Power & Light Co. – improperly pressured workers to load up on company stock while top executives were dumping their own shares, the Indianapolis Star reported. The workers lost an estimated $150 million, according to the suit.

In arguments before US District Judge David Hamilton in Indianapolis, plaintiff’s lawyer John price asserted that many of the employees lost much of their life savings and that they had “skimped and saved” their whole lives. Meanwhile, IPALCO denied any wrongdoing. “There was no abuse of discretion,” Hack Weigmann, one of IPALCO’s lawyers, told the Star. The suit lists the defendants as IPALCO Enterprises, the Employees Pension Committee for Employees’ Thrift Plan and former IPALCO executives John Hodowal, Ramon Humke, Bryan Tabler, Max Califar, Steve Plunkett, Tom Steiner, Gerald Waltz and John Wilson.

Stock Swap

Problems surfaced after Virginia-based AES acquired IPALCO in March 2001 through a stock swap, exchanging its stock for ownership of the company. Not long after the deal was completed, the value of IPALCO employees’ stock investments fell more than 90% when most of their portfolios were converted to AES stock.

IPALCO’s former executives were not in that situation, the lawsuit says. Instead, the company’s top brass and board members sold $71 million worth of shares before the acquisition was finished and the stock plummeted in value. Additionally, Hodowal, Humke, Tabler, Joseph Gustin and John Brehm received $30 million in “termination benefits” when the merger was completed and they resigned, the suit alleged.

Former employees Joseph Nelson, Michael Wycoff, Tony Medvescek and Margarie Young filed the original suit in 2002. A ruling late last year allowed other workers to join the case(see IPALCO Suits Gains Class-Action Status ).