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Ambassadors Group settles securities fraud lawsuit

 Spokane-based Ambassadors Group will pay a group of investors roughly $7.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming the company engaged in securities fraud.

The suit was originally filed in 2009 in Spokane’s federal district court, with a New Jersey electrical workers pension fund as the lead plaintiff. A year later the suit was amended, with the national Plumbers Union Local No. 12 pension fund becoming the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit.

After going through federal mediation, the parties signed the settlement last week, said Ambassadors Group CEO and President Jeff Thomas.

The union alleged that Ambassadors and some executives intentionally misled investors about the company’s weak finances during 2007, when the stock price fell by 40 percent. Company executives also sold stock worth more than $7 million during that period, the suit alleged.

In announcing the settlement, Ambassadors made no admission of wrongdoing. The money for the settlement will be paid by Ambassadors Group’s insurance companies, said Tony Dombrowik, the company’s CFO.

Ambassadors arranges and sponsors travel-education trips for students and professional groups. It has offices near the Spokane airport.

The number of shareholders who will share in the settlement has yet to be calculated, said Karl Barth, a Seattle attorney representing the plumbers union fund. Barth also noted attorneys representing the class of shareholders will seek a portion of the $7.5 million, plus legal fees. The amount attorneys will request has not been set and will have to be approved by a judge, Barth said.