Former Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth has left the St. Louis law firm of Bryan Cave because of a high-profile case that involved a $77 million jury verdict against Wells Fargo & Company. It was an odd ending to a long relationship of a stalwart of Missouri politics and law. Danforth’s family has a long, proud history in business, law, politics and philanthropy in St. Louis and the state of Missouri.
Danforth has worked at the St. Louis-based law firm Bryan Cave for decades but left because of a dispute over a claimed conflict of interest. He testified in a St. Louis court supporting the plaintiff Barbara Morriss, who sued Wells Fargo Bank because it was claimed to have mismanaged the family’s trust allegedly costing her millions of dollars. Bryan Cave had represented Reuben Morriss, a former chairman of a now merged St. Louis bank, Boatmen’s Trust Co. Wells Fargo through two predecessors was acting a custodian of one of the Morriss trusts and a trustee of another trust fund.
Danforth testified that the bank was legally to blame for the losses of the family’s trust and thus took the side of Ms. Morriss, the plaintiff against the firm’s client, Wells Fargo. It was reported that Danforth was a longtime family friend of Ms. Morriss and her husband, Reuben Morriss, who died in 2006. The case centered on the claim that while Reuben Morriss was in a “stupor” caused by Alzheimer’s disease his son Doug Morriss in cooperation with Wells Fargo lost millions of dollars from the family’s trust. The law firm of Dowd, Bennett represented Morriss in the lawsuit. It was claimed that Wells Fargo chose not to inform Barbara Morriss that the investment strategies taken were risky and that the bank had a conflict of interest in that it loaned $40 million to Doug Morriss using the family trust as collateral.