Belgian scientists claim Delaware wrongly seized, sold stock

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Delaware officials are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of two Belgian scientists who claim the state improperly used its abandoned property laws to seize their shares in a pharmaceutical firm, cheating them out of a $12 million payday when it was later acquired by drug giant Merck & Co.

The judge heard arguments Friday from attorneys for the state and for two holding companies owned by the scientists.

The plaintiffs claim Delaware had no legal authority to seize their foreign-owned shares after an agent for the Delaware-incorporated pharmaceutical firm erroneously reported in 2008 that 560,000 shares owned by the scientists had been “abandoned” and were unclaimed property.

State officials took ownership of the shares and sold them at market value in 2009 for $1.7 million.

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