State Supreme Court: No bid rigging in Aspen foreclosure auction
ASPEN – Winners of a 2007 foreclosure auction on an Aspen condominium did not engage in bid rigging, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday.The Supreme Court’s decision reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeals, which determined that three individual bidders – Mike Seguin, Debra Mayer and Tom Griffin, who was representing an Avon businessman – formed a limited liability corporation called Aspen Alps 123 in an effort to stave off competition in the foreclosure auction.The individual bidders claimed ownership of the unit, located at 700 Ute Ave. and visible from the gondola above The Little Nell hotel, with a winning bid of $1.86 million. The foreclosure auction was held Feb. 27, 2007.”Then they agreed to stop bidding and form (Aspen Alps 123) to purchase the condominium unit,” the appellate court said in its January 2010 ruling that the three individuals had rigged the bid. The Supreme Court, however, noted that “there was not an agreement prior to the foreclosure sale to rig the bid.” Rather, Aspen Alps 123’s winning bid was “significantly higher than the starting bid of $1.495 million,” the high court said. “In examining the purpose of the combined bid, we cannot say based on the limited evidence in the record that the purpose of the individuals joining to purchase the property was to eliminate, reduce, or interfere with competition,” the Supreme Court’s ruling says. “Thus, the record does not support a determination that bid rigging occurred.”In his partially dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Michael Bender said: “I disagree with this holding because I believe that this anti-competitive scheme was intended to stop further bidding and thus constitutes an illegal bid rigging conspiracy …”While the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling on bid rigging, it upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision to not void the foreclosure sale.Plaintiffs Betty Amos and the Estate of Thomas R. Righetti, the owners of the condo, had sued Aspen Alps 123 and Equitable Bank in Pitkin County District Court, claiming that the estate was not properly notified about the foreclosure auction. They also claimed that Amos sent a letter to the public trustee as a notice of intent to redeem five weeks after the foreclosure auction. The public trustee, however, said the letter was never received, and the trial court determined that the letter had likely never been mailed.Righetti, Amos’ husband, died in 2002, and the condo went into foreclosure in 2006 on an undisputed loan default. Aspen attorney Matthew Ferguson, who has a solo law practice, and Chris Bryan of Aspen firm Garfield & Hecht PC, represented Aspen Alps 123. Ferguson said Monday that the property has remained in possession of Aspen Alps 123 since litigation began.”It’s been titled in Aspen Alps’ name all along,” he said. “Nobody tried to untitle it. And clearly during the appellate period there was a situation of it being in limbo.”Denver attorney Wiley E. Mayne of the firm Holland & Hart LLP, the lead counsel for Amos and the Righetti estate, could not be reached for immediate comment Monday.firstname.lastname@example.org
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