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There was no sweet chocolate kiss goodbye for Mary Louise Porter, who has lost her job as general counsel of the Hershey Trust Company. The trust company, under investigation by the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office, manages a $7.5 billion charity. The trust also holds 77 percent of the voting stock in the Hershey Company, including the Hershey Foods Corporation. According to various news reports, Porter either resigned under pressure or was fired from the trust, which handles the fortune bequeathed by the late Milton and Catherine Hershey, founders of the corporation. Porter has declined comment about her leaving, and she didn’t return a call from CorpCounsel.com. Citing a source, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she was fired, but a company spokesman said she resigned. Porter retained her position as general counsel at the Milton Hershey School, which annually enrolls more than 1,700 youths from impoverished families. The assets that the trust handles actually belong to the school. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 9 that the trust has hired John Estey, a partner at Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia, as interim GC to replace Porter. Estey, who has declined comment and didn’t return a call from CorpCounsel.com, is expected to lead negotiations with the office of state attorney general Linda Kelly over changes in how the charity conducts its affairs. Kelly, who was just appointed to the office in May, inherited the ongoing investigation of Hershey. The trust has previously confirmed the probe, and said it was cooperating with investigators. The precise nature of the investigation has not been disclosed, but local news media have previously questioned the trust’s purchase of a financially troubled golf course—for $12 million—that was partially owned by a then-trustee; the building of a $5 million bar and restaurant on the course; and the sale of the chocolate factory in downtown Hershey, PA, to private investors. Questions reportedly center on whether the factory sale will siphon off money from the Hershey school, and whether the trust’s board is meeting its fiduciary obligations. In addition, a former general counsel of Hershey Foods filed suit against the trust in February, claiming widespread financial irregularities. Robert Reese, the ex-GC, had gone on to join the trust’s board and became its president in 2009 before he was ousted in February. Reese accused trust board members of voting themselves exorbitant salary increases, and of making financial decisions without adequate cost-benefit analysis. The price of the golf course, he claimed, was triple its appraised value. However, Reese withdrew his suit in April. After discussions with the AG’s office, Reese told reporters he was “confident that the attorney general’s office will actively review the matters that I have raised in my petition.” It is not the first time the trust has clashed with the state attorney general’s office. In 2002, after a public outcry, the AG stepped in to halt a planned sale of Hershey Foods. The candy maker said the trust had pressured it to explore a sale in order to diversify the trust’s assets.

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