Though the current bank failure wave has been rolling for several years now and though there have been over 425 bank closures during that period, the much anticipated FDIC failed bank litigation has been slower to gain momentum – that is, perhaps, at least until now. Through the end of 2011, the FDIC had filed 18 lawsuits against former directors and officers of failed banks. But now with the latest FDIC lawsuits, described below, the FDIC has already filed seven so far in 2012, three of which just in the last nine business days. There is a definite sense that the pace of litigation activity is picking up.
The latest FDIC failed bank lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois and relates to the failed Broadway Bank of Chicago, Illinois. Broadway Bank failed on April 23, 2010. The FDIC’s compliant, which can be found here, alleges that at the time of failure that bank had assets of 1.06 billion and that the bank’s failure cost the insurance fund $391.4 million. According to news reports, the failed bank is the former family bank of a former Illinois state treasurer.
The FDIC’s lawsuit, filed in its capacity as the failed bank’s receiver, seeks to recover over $104 million in losses the bank allegedly suffered on commercial real estate loans. The complaint names nine individuals as defendants, seven director defendants and two officer defendants. The complaint asserts claims against the nine defendants for gross negligence; breach of the fiduciary duty of care; and negligence.
The complaint alleges that the defendants “recklessly implemented a strategy of rapidly growing Broadway’s assets by approving high-risk loans without regard for appropriate underwriting and credit administration practices, the Bank’s written loan policies, federal regulations and warnings from the Bank’s regulators.” With regard to the regulators’ warnings, the complaint alleges that the Director Defendants approved “two of the worst Loss Loans” on June 24, 2008 after a meeting earlier the same day with the Bank’s regulators in which the regulators “specifically warned the Director Defendants about the risks that these types of loans posed to the Bank.” That same day regulators had discussed with the Director Defendants the need to “enter a Memorandum of Understanding” that would “impose restrictions on the Bank to stop this type of high risk lending.”
One of the director defendants, James McMahon, who served on the bank’s board from 2003 to December 22, 2008 issues a press release about the FDIC’s complaint, in which McMahon notes that the bank had been founded “by an immigrant who left Greece in 1962 to find a better life in America,” and had become a “vital force in the financial life of the community.” The bank had been “unable to withstand the greatest market decline since the Great Depression and, along with over 400 other community banks” had been “forced to close their doors.” With respect to the lawsuit, McMahon states “with the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, the FDIC now blames Broadway’s former officers and directors for not anticipating the same unprecedented market forces that also surprised central bankers, national banks, economists, major Wall Street firms and the regulators themselves.” McMahon concludes by noting that the allegations in the complaint are “utterly without merit and I expect to be fully vindicated by the Court.”
With this lawsuit, the FDIC has now filed 25 lawsuits against the former directors and officers as part of the current wave of bank failures. The Broadway bank lawsuit is the fifth that the FDIC has filed so far in Illinois, the most of any state except Georgia, where the FDIC has filed six suits. There clearly are more cases in the pipeline, as the FDIC has stated on its website that, as of February 14, 2012, the agency has authorized suits in connection with 49 failed institutions against 427 individuals for D&O liability with damage claims of at least $7.8 billion.
Thus the 25 lawsuits filed so far represent only about half of the lawsuits that had been authorized as of the middle of February, and the 205 individuals named in those 25 lawsuits represent less than half of the individuals against whom lawsuits have been authorized. The number of authorizations undoubtedly will continue to climb in the months ahead, as will the number of lawsuits.
With this latest suit, the FDIC has now filed three new lawsuits in just the last nine business days. These three cases include the February 24, 2012 lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Georgia involving two former officers of the failed Community Bank and Trust of Cornelia, Georgia (about which refer here, scroll down) as well as the March 2, 2012 lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Georgia against 12 former directors and officer of the failed Freedom Bank of Commerce, Georgia (about which refer here, scroll down). There is a definite sense that the pace of the FDIC’s litigation activity has picked up. Though this latest lawsuit was filed well in advance of the three-year statute of limitations, the two prior suits were much closer to the cut-off, and with the three-year deadline date looming for the failed bank class of 2009 – the largest year for failed banks – it seems likely there will be increasing numbers of suits ahead.
Very special thanks to John M. George, Jr. of the Katten & Temple law firm for sending me a copy of the Broadway bank complaint and for sending me James McMahon’s press release. The Katten & Temple law firm represents Mr. McMahon.
Corruption Investigation Follow-On Civil Suits Reach Canada: The occurrence of follow-on civil actions being filed in the wake of corruption and bribery investigations is a phenomenon I have noted frequently on this blog. It now appears this type of follow on civil suit has now reached Canada.
As discussed here, the share price of SNC-Lavalin Group recently declined sharply after the company announced an internal investigation of the accounting for certain payments in connection with a company project in Libya . As reflected in their March 1, 2012 press release (here), plaintiffs’ lawyers have now initiated a securities class action lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court against the Company and certain of its directors and officers.
The plaintiffs’ complaint, which can be found here, alleges that the company violated its continuing disclosure obligation by misrepresenting the company’s internal controls and accounting. Among other things the complaint alleges that an anonymous letter the company’s senior management alleged that for years shell companies had been used to funnel money from SNC-Lavalin to members of the Libya’s Gadhafi family.
The phenomenon of follow on civil litigation has been a factor in the U.S. for years. As anticorruption efforts spread elsewhere, the likelihood is not only that more companies will face scrutiny from government officials, but they may also face civil litigation as well. At a minimum this case shows how Canada’s litigation environment is continuing to evolve, and its litigation landscape is becoming both more extensive and more complex.
Special thanks for a loyal reader for alerting me to this case.