Bremer Financial, parent company of Bremer Bank, said 2019 earnings rose 7% to $156 million.

The St. Paul-based company, owned by a foundation and its employees, said dividend payout to shareholders rose nearly 15% to $87.6 million, including $80.6 million to the Otto Bremer Trust.

“These results are a testament to our continued solid financial performance across our businesses,” CEO Jeanne Crain said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to amplifying our work on the strategies and investments that made 2019 such a success, including our work on digital capabilities to better serve our customers.”

The financial-services company posted an above-industry average return on equity of 13% last year and return on assets of 1.22%.

Since 1989, Bremer has distributed more than $850 million in dividends to shareholders, including $780 million paid to the Otto Bremer Trust for disbursement to charities and nonprofit organizations served by the $13 billion-asset company in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Bremer Financial and the Bremer Trust are embroiled in a legal dispute in Ramsey County District Court over its future.

The three trustees who run the foundation seek to sell the banking company, arguing that a premium-priced sale to a larger financial organization would increase assets and, as a result, the amount of money it gives away annually.

Bremer Financial argues that the trustees are acting in their own financial interest and against the intent of Otto Bremer, who in the 1940s created the foundation to operate the bank in the interest of its communities.

The court fight has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison launched last month. His office oversees nonprofit governance in Minnesota.