Judge Signs Protective Order in ClassicStar Case

A federal judge in Lexington signed an order Oct. 24 that allows parties to make selected evidence confidential in the lawsuit involving the controversial ClassicStar broodmare leasing program.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood executed the proposed motion submitted to him by most of the parties named in the multi-million dollar lawsuit. One not named as party to the order is former ClassicStar director of marketing David Plummer, a defendant who is regarded as developer of the leasing program that allegedly promised both expansive tax savings and valuable foals to investors.

Citing concerns to "protect proprietary information" that includes "financial information" and "trade secrets," the order will allow parties to keep evidence sealed from public viewing except by those closely affiliated with the high-profile case, such as attorneys, company officials, court reporters, etc.

The order also calls for destruction of all produced materials and documents within 45 days after the conclusion of the case.

Attempts by The Blood-Horse to reach principals involved in the lawsuit were unsuccessful, including calls to Lexington attorney Barry D. Hunter, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, and one of the defendants, current ClassicStar managing partner Tony Ferguson.

During a hearing Oct. 3 in a Lexington courtroom, Hood ordered defendants to provide the plaintiffs with certain documents by Oct. 23, or face the possibility that the sale of mares consigned on behalf of ClassicStar to the Nov. 5 Fasig-Tipton select mixed auction may be impacted in some fashion.

With the advent of the protective order, it isn't immediately clear if those documents were submitted by the deadline, or how the ClassicStar mare dispersal may be affected, if at all. Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton chief operating officer and executive vice president, told The Blood-Horse Oct. 25 that he wasn't aware of any change in status to the ClassicStar dispersal.

In the original civil complaint filed in July that features alleged federal racketeering charges, Pacific Northwest-area plaintiffs West Hill Farms, Arbor Farms, and Nelson Breeders claim they were collectively frauded out of at least $20 million in ClassicStar lease programs. The suit claims in part that the plaintiffs were unknowingly leased Quarter Horse mares as substitutes for Thoroughbreds at substantially over-inflated values.

Although the defendants have yet to file a detailed response to the original complaint, attorneys in the Oct. 3 hearing said the investors knew they were buying into both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, claiming the plaintiffs spent hundreds of hours riding performance horses and studying pedigrees at Plummer's ranch in Utah before signing up for the lease program.

Plummer, who is represented by separate counsel, parted ways with ClassicStar just weeks before Internal Revenue Service agents, armed with a search warrant, confiscated evidence from ClassicStar Farm located near Versailles, Ky. on Feb. 23.