PLAINTIFF BEGINS IN S15,000,000 SUIT
Jury Empaneled at Dedham to Hear Action Brought By George F. Willett
Thomas W. Hayes of Stoughton, mason.
Frank I. Stoddard, Weymouth, shoe worker.
Edmund T. Harmon, Dedham, clerk.
Joseph L. Day, Medway, clerk.
Henry B. Stiles,Weymouth, painter.
Myron A. Day, Plainville, clerk.
Charles R. Powers, Randolph, clergyman.
Chester C. Morton, Braintree, railroad man.
Fred A. Clark, Foxboro, clerk.
William T. Small, Brookline, printing.
George H. Heal, Braintree, machlnist.
J. Edward Kennedy, Medfield, carpenter.
DEDHAM, Nov 8, 1923-
When the Willett suit for $15,000,000 damages against, Kidder, Peabody & Co, Robert F. Herrick, F. S. Moseley Co, Daniel G. Wing and others made its second start, this morning. Judge Callahan said, “I am ready now to hear any motions along the lines suggested in conference. Now, Mr Mayberry, If you represent the defendants—”
“I think we have nothing to add to what we said in the lobby.”
“I will overrule the motion.”
Three more defense lawyers came forward and filed motions similar to Mr Mayberry’s, al lof which were overruled. Clerk Worthington now began the process of empaneling the jury, calling a boxful at a time and submitting them to examination.
“Gentlemen,” began Judge Callahan, “this is an action of George F. Willett and Edmund H. Ledis—” and went on to name each plaintiff and every defendant. asking the jurors all together If they were related to or indebted to any of the parties.
“Is Robert Herrick president of the Pacific Mills?” asked juror James R. Holden. “Because I am employed in the treasurer’s office of those mills.”
He was excused.
“Have any of you read a pamphlet entitled “An Answer?” wras the next question. Nobody had, but George H. Briggs was excused because he lives in Norwood, the home town of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff now challenged one man and the^ defendants two, without any explanations. But with no more objections, the jury was accepted, and Rev Charles R. Powers, a retired minister from Randolph”? wras appointed foreman. Judge Callaahan warned the jury that it was probably facing a long case, that it was Important not to form an opinion too soon, not to be influenced by any consideration outside the evidence, and to refuse to lister to any person trying to talk to a juror about the case, to report any such attempt to the court at once, to be careful not to be influenced by a reporter’s interpretation of the evidence—and inciporters not to characterized evidence as to its weight.
With less than 40 minutes of preliminaries, the trial began.
Damon E. Hahn opened for the plaintiff, describing the process by which a case comes to trial, by filing of a plaintiff’s declaration and the defense’s answer, both of which he proceeded to read.
The suit was dated Feb 14, 1921, the plaintiffs being George F. Willett of Norwood and Edmund H. Sears of Wayland, formerly partners; the unit indicating that the partnership has been dissolved.
The defendants are Robert F. Herrick and Daniel G. Wing of Newton; Frederick S. Mosely, Neil Rantoul, Stephen U. R. Crossby, Ben Moseley; Sewell II. Fessenden of Brookline, Louis B. Wellington of Weston, Herbert F. Boynton of Cambridge. Charles Auchincloss and William 8. Clough of New York; of Kidder, Peabody & Co Frank G. Webster, William Endicott, Albert S. West, all of Boston: Robert Winsor, Frank W. Remlck of Newton, William L. Benedict and Charles S. Sargent Jr of New York etty. The Chase National Bank has been named in the suit but there has been no service.
The action is one of tort and the ad damnum is $15,000,000.
Mr Hall now read the plaintiff’s declaration, which is a printed pamphlet of many pages, setting forth, first, the existence of the firm of Willet & Sears in July, 1918. and its business of conducting mill business, their principal companies being the American Felt Company and the Daniel Green Felt Shoe Company.
During the month of July, 1918, the declaration says, tho defendants conspired, the scheme being devised by Robert F. Derrick, to take the plaintiff’s business away from them.
The allegation is that the conspirators first took steps to prevent the plaintiffs from raising money anywhere else, and then, in the guise of a loan, arranged to manage and get intn their own hands the control of the felt and felt shoe companies.
The shares of the companies which’ gave control of them were required to be turned over, the declaration says, to the defendants, and are now owned In fact by Moseley & Co, Kidder, Peabody & Co and Robert F. Herrick.
The next step alleged was to mismanage the companies, to wreck some of them and to keep the two principal ones, the felt company and the shoe company.
In July, 1918, the declaration goes on, Willett & Sears needed a loan of nearly $1,000,000 and asked Mosely & Co to arrange for it. The job was turned over to Mr Fessenden, who formed a syndicate. which agreed to make the loan. But the plaintiffs said that Mr Fessenden concealed the fact and said the loan could not go through unless the Chase National Bank of Now York, which already held notes of Willett Scars & Co., could be placated.
A new set of terms was thereupon drawn up; Willett, Sears & Co agree to make $600,000 of nonliquid assets in the felt company’s treasury to more liquid form, and to turn the management of the companies over to a committee composed of the heads of the loaning banks. Then the syndicate was to loan $2,992,000, which would be due in February of 1919. about seven months away.
“Made to Seem Bankrupt”
The drawing of the agreement was turned over to Robert T. Herrick, counsel for and director for members of the syndicate. Thon the declaration goes on with the story of Willett Sears & So trying vainly to raise money elsewhere and finally being obliged to agree to the terms of the syndicate. To get an extension of notes amounting to $500,000, Willett Sears say, they had to turn over millions of dollars in shares, pay a bonus of $750,000 and liquify slow-selling assets to the amount of $500,000. This being done, and the properties being turned over to Messrs Herrick, Fessenden & Winsor, the $2,992,000 loan was allowed to go through. At the end of a named period, the plaintiffs say, they were to be allowed to buy their stock back.
The next charge was that some of the subsidiary companies were deliberately made to appear bankrupt, that it was arranged that the principal ones should never earn themselves out of debt.
The next step was to buy in secretly Willett, Sears & Co’s notes, getting $490,000 for $44,500. The plaintiffs charge that a dummy was used, that Mr Herrick secretely furnished the money and that the notes later fetched $103,000. Tn similar fashion the remaining liabilities of the firm were acquired.
The dependents next, according to the declaration, urged Willett, Sears Co to settle some still outstanding claims, and offered to buy the shares still held by the firm and the right to redeem the shares that had already been pledged. This removed the last of Willett Stars’ interest in the companies; they got $125,000 for the bargain under the agreement which was described, though no money at all was actually paid to them.
In March, 1919, the firm of Willett, Sears & Co was dissolved and Mr Willett took the firm’s assets and is now sole plaintiff.