A federal bankruptcy judge has agreed to appoint an independent financial examiner to look into a securities case involving investors nationwide, including 80 Montanans who invested $32 million, Montana's securities commissioner said Friday.

An attorney for the Montana state auditor's office, Mike Winsor, and former Montana Congressman Rick Hill, an affected investor, testified Friday in Wilmington, Del., as to the need for an independent examiner and a forensic accounting in the bankruptcy case of DBSI, a Boise, Idaho-based investment firm.

Monica Lindeen, Montana state auditor and securities commissioner, said that DBSI investors throughout the country pooled their money in $10 and $15 increments to pay for Hill's travel expenses.

Bankruptcy Judge Peter J. Walsh granted the motion to appoint an examiner, Lindeen said.

"Many of the investors are seniors who relied on these investments to live independently in their retirement," Lindeen said in a news release. "They have a right to know what happened to their money."

DBSI and 140 of its affiliates nationwide filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, leaving the holdings of investors across the country in doubt. DBSI had acquired more than $2 billion in property between 2004 and 2008 and separately managed more than 18.6 million square feet of space, encompassing 280 properties in 34 states, with an aggregate value of more than $2.65 billion.

DBSI is facing regulatory and civil lawsuits alleging it engaged in securities, banking and tax fraud and racketeering.

A class-action suit filed by investors alleges DBSI and its principals were engaged in a Ponzi scheme, using proceeds of sales from new properties to make guaranteed payments on existing properties.

DBSI has denied any wrongdoing.

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