CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A proposed $8 million settlement has been filed in a stock options lawsuit against Piggly Wiggly.
The class action lawsuit was filed by former employees against the Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company and its parent Greenbax Enterprises.
The former employees said they filed the lawsuit after learning their retirement funds were gone, and blamed company officials.
Tuesday's motion states the settlement fund will initially consist of $5.2 million, with future deposits estimated between $2.475 million to $3.45 million.
A letter that was sent to former employees stated that the value of their plan assets went from $9.98 million to $456,741 dollars in a year's time.
Company president David Schools wrote, "Those of us with employee stock ownership account balances are greatly disappointed in this development, but it is unavoidable at this time."
The suit claims the management "constantly prioritized protecting and enhancing their own personal interests and financial positions instead of the interests of plan participants."
The lawsuit also claims managers "misled plan participants about the condition of the company and company stock."
The suit goes on to say the company stock value dropped from $88 million to $9 million over eight years that "decimated" the retirement savings of thousands of Piggly Wiggly employees, many who made salaries of less than $40,000 a year.
According to the suit, Piggly Wiggly was "hemorrhaging money", and that some top company officials had perks including luxury cars including a new Mercedes Benz and a Jaguar convertible.
James Lewis worked for Piggly Wiggly for 42 years and managed the frozen foods and produce departments until his retirement in 2012.
He is also part of the class action lawsuit.
At the end of January 2017, Lewis and other former workers got their employee stock ownership statements from the company.
"All I can say is, 'Lord, have mercy,'" Lewis said after seeing his employee stock ownership plan statement.
Lewis looked at the value of his account and saw nothing but zeros.
Lewis says he lost around $30,000.
"I guess I have to say the upper-level management and the corporation, David Schools, Mr. Newton, the board of directors. They're responsible for it," Lewis said.