Score one for deposed SafeCard Services Inc. boss Peter Halmos in his ongoing legal slugfest with the regime that ousted him more than two years ago.
A Wyoming state court ruled that the statute of limitations on the card registration giant's insider-trading claim against him had expired by the time of its filing in May 1993.
The company said it has not decided whether to appeal the ruling.
"SafeCard's directors should stop their litigation vendetta and public smear campaign against me," said Mr. Halmos in a statement. "They should focus the company's resources on its business, which press reports are now indicating, appears to be experiencing difficulty."
The Cheyenne, Wyo.-based company downplayed the significance of the court's ruling. "It is the dismissal of just one claim out of three or four (that we have)," said Bill Lackey, SafeCard's vice president of investor relations.
He noted that the court did not express an opinion on SafeCard's claim that Mr. Halmos improperly used inside information to trade millions of its shares.
The long-running feud between Mr. Halmos and the credit card loss- protection company he founded in 1969 has so far produced little more than added ammunition for the tort reform lobby.
Since his unceremonious exit in December 1992, Mr. Halmos has sued SafeCard in several states, charging its directors with unfairly pushing him out, while withholding stock options and other financial obligations.
SafeCard, in turn, has accused Mr. Halmos of abusing his position at the company, misappropriating and misusing corporate funds and assets, among other things. Both sides are seeking multi-million dollar damage awards.
In February, an Illinois court dismissed part of Mr. Halmos' claim, a ruling he has appealed.
"They keep refiling and rearguing on both sides. Only the lawyers are making money here," said Peter Russ, who follows SafeCard for the brokerage firm of Shelby, Cullom, Davis & Co. in New York.
Media gurus also are turning a tidy profit, with both sides launching high-profile public relations campaigns. SafeCard director Robert Dilenschneider and his Dilenschneider Group are representing the company, while Robert Siegfried of Kekst & Co., a New York firm known for its role in corporate takeover battles, spin-doctors for Mr. Halmos.
Mr. Lackey indicated that a speedy resolution to all of the claims is unlikely.
"The legal system will resolve (the suits) in due course," Mr. Lackey said. "That doesn't preclude a settlement, but there's been no indication of any kind of settlement.
"Last year, they had offered (Mr. Halmos) $20 million to go away, and he wouldn't take it." said Mr. Russ. "It isn't a question of money with him.
"He wants what he would consider a statement of vindication, and he wouldn't mind destroying the company to get it, although he might not see it that way. He thinks he created SafeCard, they can't exist without him, and he's going to prove it."
SafeCard currently delivers its services through more than 150 credit card issuers to about 13 million consumers.