Iowa's Maharishi International University settles donor's lawsuit over supposedly lost stock


HR King
May 29, 2001
Maharishi International University has settled a lawsuit with a donor who claimed a paperwork snafu by the school cost her $500,000.

Mary Town, of Wyoming, said in an April lawsuit that officials at the Fairfield-based Transcendental Meditation school failed to properly sign a stock transfer certificate that was supposed to return 166,667 donated shares of her ex-husband's organic farming company to her possession.

Town's attorney, Jeffrey Stone, filed a notice in U.S. District Court on Monday to inform a judge that his client was dismissing the case after the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement in August.

"The case has been resolved amicably and to the parties' mutual satisfaction," Stone said Tuesday.

Town's then-husband, Phillip Town, started Westbridge Research Group in California in 1982 with a fellow Transcendental Meditation practitioner, Bill Witherspoon. Among other products, they sold organic fertilizer and insect repellent.

The Towns and Witherspoon later moved to Fairfield, where Witherspoon had helped found the university. According to the lawsuit, the Towns gifted the school with the company stock in December 1984. But, Mary Town claimed, administrators asked for cash instead.

The Towns allegedly agreed to pay the university $21,000 in exchange for the return of the stock. However, Mary Town claimed that the school's treasurer failed to properly sign the stock certificate. According to the complaint, a firm recording the owners of various shares did not officially move the stock back into Town's possession, even though she received the stock certificate.

Witherspoon told the Des Moines Register in April that he also donated stock to the school in the 1980s. He recalled that administrators asked him for cash instead, as well. He said he declined their request.

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"The stock didn't have significant value at the time," he said. "It had just been sitting and sitting and sitting. And nobody was following it. And to be truthful, it wasn't worth a whole huge amount."