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NorthWestern Can't Get Out Of Shareholder Suit, Judge Says

Nov 5, 2002 | AP

A district judge ruled Monday that NorthWestern Energy will remain a part of a lawsuit filed against Touch America by former Montana Power Co. shareholders.

District Judge Thomas McKittrick of Great Falls denied NorthWestern's request to be dropped as a defendant.

NorthWestern was added to the list of defendants after the initial case was filed.

The original class-action lawsuit was filed in August, but has been revised extensively. Since then, other lawsuits have been filed against Montana Power or its successor company, Touch America.

Named as defendants are Montana Power Co.; Montana Power LLC; Touch America Holdings Inc.; Goldman Sachs & Co; Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd.; Westmoreland Coal Co.; Westmoreland Mining LLC; BBI Power Corp.; CES Acquisition Corp; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLC; NorthWestern Energy LLC; and three parties not yet named.

The lawsuit also names as defendants the top officers of Montana Power Co., now Touch America Holdings, including Chief Executive Officer Bob Gannon, Chief Operating Officer Jerry Pederson, President Mike Meldahl and all of the members of the board of directors of Touch America Holdings, formerly Montana Power Co.

The suit was filed on behalf of eight shareholders. It contends shareholders were not given the right to vote on the sale of several former Montana Power holdings and seeks to nullify those sales. It also asks for $3 billion in lost stock revenue.

Montana Power's stock reached a high of $65.75 in March 2000. When MPC began trading as Touch America last Feb. 15, the price was $3.83. The stock has been trading below $1 a share since July 31 and the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 16 began the process that could lead to delisting of Touch America stock. The stock closed at $.56 on Monday.

The companies are trying to move the suit from Butte to Kalispell, contending in a recent court motion that an impartial jury cannot be chosen in Butte-Silver Bow County.


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