A federal judge has approved a settlement between U.S. Sugar Corp. and its shareholders.
Shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court's Southern Division in 2008. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 4,000 employees, who claimed U.S. Sugar's board didn't inform them of two buy-out offers before rejecting the deals.
Under the settlement, U.S. Sugar will pay $8.4 million. After plaintiffs' attorney's fees and expenses about $5.5 million will be available to distribute to shareholders and participants in an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. The average ESOP participant has 175 shares and their average payment from the settlement is $480, according to Judy Sanchez, a U.S. Sugar spokeswoman.
Payments will be made directly to shareholders and for ESOP participants payments will be deposited into a separate cash account. ESOP benefits are part of employees' retirement packages.
If the Clewiston-based grower's deal to sell 73,000 acres of farmland to the state for Everglades restoration goes through the company would pay plaintiffs an additional $7.5 million.
U.S. Sugar admitted no wrongdoing. It's a private company largely owned by employees.