Out of money, Excelsior woman still fighting

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2009 - 10:58 PM
Peggy Greer
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Peggy Greer

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After watching court-appointed officials spend more than $600,000 of her money, Peggy Greer is returning to court to try to win it back.

Greer, 86, of Excelsior, has filed suit in Hennepin County District Court, claiming that her former guardian and conservator failed to protect her assets, heed her wishes and otherwise fulfill their duties to look after her best interests.

In March 2005, a Hennepin County probate judge ruled that Greer, then recovering from painkiller addiction, was unable to make decisions for herself, and appointed Professional Fiduciary Inc. as her guardian and Wells Fargo Elder Services as her conservator.

Over the next two years, the guardian and conservator spent $672,000 on health costs, attorney's fees and other expenses, despite objections from Greer and other family members that the spending was excessive and unjustified.

Greer won back her rights in July 2007, after her assets were exhausted and the guardian and conservator no longer opposed their dismissal. After the Star Tribune reported in February about Greer's experience, attorneys David Bland and Andrew Pieper of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi took on her case.

Reached Tuesday at her home, Greer said lawyers and courts have let her down in the past. But these lawyers "just seem very experienced, and very capable, as though they could really stick with it." Her goal: "That I get my money back. That would be good."

The lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo Bank, Wells Fargo Private Bank Elder Services, PFI and Ruth Ostrom, an attorney for PFI, of breach of fiduciary duties, which it says caused Greer "severe emotional distress."

"Wells Fargo categorically denies the allegations in this case," the bank said in a statement Tuesday. "The probate court approved all of our actions as conservator. We intend to vigorously defend this action."

A call to Minneapolis-based PFI's president, Pat Murphy, was not immediately returned. Reached in her office Tuesday, Ostrom said she had not seen the lawsuit.

In an earlier interview, Ostrom said PFI and Wells Fargo went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate Greer's wishes and blamed the high costs on the family's contentious behavior.

Among other claims, Greer's suit accuses Wells Fargo of "self-dealing transactions" by shifting Greer's assets into Wells Fargo accounts and obtaining a Wells Fargo reverse mortgage on her house. It also claims Wells Fargo and PFI failed to provide records of Greer's guardianship and conservatorship that she was entitled to have under Minnesota law.

The suit also accuses PFI and Ostrom of improperly releasing personal and confidential information about Greer during communications with the Star Tribune before the article was published, as well as in a letter rebutting the article that Ostrom sent to an official of the Minnesota Association for Guardianship and Conservatorship and another rebuttal from Ostrom that was posted on the website of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

The letter was eventually removed from the site.

Feel like you're getting ripped off? Contact us at whistleblower@startribune.com or 612-673-4271.

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Peggy Greer