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Supreme Court halts probe into alleged corruption in Mable Amos Trust Fund

In a surprise move on Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ended the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.

The Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in Montgomery, which is home to the Alabama Supreme Court. STOCK
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In a lawsuit filed in 2022, relatives of Mable Amos, a former Alabama Secretary of State, alleged that Regions Bank and its former chief trust officer schemed to improperly charge the Amos trust exorbitant fees.

Statewide attention surged when allegations surfaced that the children of Alabama Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton, a trustee, received scholarships from the trust.

In a surprise move on Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ended the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by the trust.

The lawsuit claims that Regions Bank began charging significantly increased fees in 2011 – a year after oil was discovered on the property. Fees skyrocketed from less than $8,000 in 2010 to more than $90,000 in 2011.

Further allegations accuse board members overseeing the trust of improperly benefiting from its scholarship program, with multiple board members’ children receiving scholarships. Reports indicate that Tom Albritton’s daughter and son were among the beneficiaries, collecting over $130,000  to attend the University of Texas.

In a 2023 filing, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall stated that Regions and the board members “engaged in acts of self-dealing, or breached their fiduciary and other duties to the trust by failing to prevent or prohibit self-dealing, or by permitting and acquiescing in self-dealing, and engaging in other acts and omissions in violation of statutory and common law duties owed to the Trust.”

“The Trustee and the Board, jointly and severally, impermissibly awarded scholarships or grants to Albritton’s children and paid or caused to be paid scholarships or grant money from the Mable Amos Fund totaling $135,000 for his children to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin,” Marshall said in the filing.

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Albritton serves as one of three board members for the trust, alongside Regions’ chief trust officer, John Bell, who is named in the lawsuit, and Rick Clifton, Albritton’s former law partner. Albritton’s law firm was responsible for establishing the trust.

In 2023, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin appointed a special master to investigate the alleged self-dealing and corruption surrounding the Mable Amos Trust Fund. Griffin appointed retired Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Charles Price as special master and James White Sr., a certified public accountant from Birmingham, to examine the trust fund’s accounts and records.

The Supreme Court of Alabama in its ruling vacated the lower court’s order for an investigation by a special master and CPA into the alleged self-dealing by trustees overseeing the scholarship fund. In a unanimous opinion, Associate Justice Brady Mendheim stated, “In summary, the circuit court’s order referring all matters in these cases to a special master exceeded its discretion.”

Mendheim added, “As to the referral of the matters to be tried without a jury, the circuit court did not indicate that an ‘exceptional condition’ necessitated the referral.”

The Mable Amos Trust Fund, worth about $8.2 million due to oil and gas wells on its South Alabama property, is intended “to fund or to provide scholarships for deserving young men and women of this State [Alabama]…to assist them in attending any educational institution.”

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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