Statement from the Otto Bremer Trust
August 12, 2020
“Today’s filing by the Attorney General’s office is an unprecedented example of putting politics over people. The trustees are guided by one principle: do what is in the best interests of the trust and maximize its capacity for charitable giving. In that effort, they have been extraordinarily successful; in 2019, charitable giving by the trust exceeded $56 million and millions more in emergency relief to those most in need in response to the pandemic and the resulting economic dislocation.
“For the past year the trustees have explored a sale of Bremer Financial Corporation that would have increased the trust’s assets by more than a billion dollars. This effort—which is true to the intent and direction of Otto Bremer—has met with opposition by BFC’s management and directors who are more concerned about maintaining their positions rather than increasing the value of the trust’s assets.
“Last year, before selling any stock, the trustees approached the Attorney General’s office and informed the head of the Attorney General’s charities division of precisely what the trust intended to do and why. In response, the Attorney General’s office wrote a letter to the trust that included the following:
I wanted to thank you both for meeting with my colleague, Ben Velzen, and me on August 16, 2019, to discuss your client, Otto Bremer Trust (“OBT”), and to provide the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) advance notice of a contemplated sale of OBT assets, mainly the entirety of its stock in Bremer Financial Corporation. I also appreciate that you agreed to keep the AGO informed as OBT consider its options moving forward, including providing it copies of relevant documents in a timely manner.
When appropriate, and most likely after any contemplated sale is finalized, the AGO will want to discuss with OBT its trustee compensation.
“What has changed since then? The only relevant change is that BFC has retained an adviser politically connected to the Attorney General. Now, the Attorney General bizarrely suggests in his filing that the trustees should be removed because they acted to vastly increase the trust’s capacity for charitable giving after speaking with his office and receiving clearance to do so.
“The people truly hurt by this interference, and by the Attorney General’s support of it, are the beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries of the trust’s charitable giving.
“The petition is otherwise an ad hominen attack on the trustees based on misrepresentations of fact, and complaints about matters, such as trustee compensation, that were long ago passed on by the Attorney General’s office itself and judicially approved. The accusations are unfounded in law or fact and reflect government overreach at its worst. The trustees will fight this misguided effort—and the radical legal theory that supports it –and have every expectation that an objective court will reject it as the political grandstanding it is.
“Since the founding of the Trust in 1944, the trustees have always managed the assets of OBT in the manner specified by Otto Bremer and for the benefit of the individuals, families and communities we serve. That singular focus has delivered more than $800 million in charitable contributions to organizations across Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin that are on the frontlines fighting against poverty, homelessness, addiction and hunger. Our support of that work has expanded in 2020 in the face of a global pandemic, unprecedented economic disruption and civil unrest; we remain focused on meeting those needs in the same way Otto Bremer marshaled his resources to combat the Great Depression.”
Contact: David Hakensen, H Co., 612-840-4592