I have previously tried to anticipate the future direction of the credit crisis litigation wave (refer, for example, here), but what I failed to foresee is that as the credit crisis itself has entered the remedial phase – or what we all hope turns out to be the remedial phase – there also would be litigation arising from the administration of the remedies. A recent securities lawsuit demonstrates how circumstances surrounding the government’s bailout efforts can lead to litigation.
As reflected in their February 9, 2009 press release (here), plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama against Colonial BancGroup and certain of its officers. Colonial is a bank holding company that operates Colonial Bank, N.A., which has 347 bank branches in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Nevada and Texas, and over $26 billion in assets.
The lawsuit relates to Colonial’s efforts to obtain TARP money, and in particular to the company’s December 2, 2008 and January 27, 2009 press releases discussing the company’s TARP-related efforts. A copy of the complaint can be found here. Special thanks to Courthouse News Service for the complaint.
In its December 2, 2008 press release entitled "Colonial BancGroup Received Preliminary Approval from the U.S. Treasury for $550 Million in Capital" (here), Colonial announced that it had "received preliminary approval" to participate in the Treasury Department’s capital purchase program, pursuant to which Colonial "will receive $550 million from the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008."
In the December 2 press release, Colonial also stated that in exchange for its investment, the Treasury was to receive preferred shares paying a 5% dividend for the first five years. If the preferred shares are not redeemed within five years, the dividend rate increases to 9%. The press release also stated that the Treasury will also receive warrants to purchase shares of Colonial.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ February 9 press release, in response to Colonial’s December 2 announcement, Colonial’s share price "surged over 50 percent from its $2 per share close on December 1, 2008 to close at $3.08 per share on December 2, 2008."
However, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to disclose that "Colonial would be required to raise additional outside capital of $300 million before it could receive the $550 million in TARP funding." The complaint further alleges that Colonial "belatedly disclosed" this requirement after the markets closed on January 27, 2009. The complaint alleges that in response to the company’s January 27 announcement, Colonial’s share price declined 45%, from $1.58 per share to $0.85 per share.
Colonial’s January 27, 2009 press release, which can be found here, stated that Colonial’s participation in TARP is "subject to Colonial’s increasing equity by $300 million." The January 27 press release also states that Colonial is "actively pursuing a variety of capital raising alternatives to increase equity by $300 million, which should satisfy this condition of the TARP preliminary approval."
As discussed in a February 6, 2009 Birmingham Business Journal article (here), Colonial’s announcement that it must raise $300 million of additional funds to qualify for TARP "is raising eyebrows among some banking analysts and banking experts." The article quotes one commentator as saying that this item represents "a pretty significant omission" on Colonial’s part in its announcement of the TARP funding. The article also quotes an analyst as saying she felt "deceived" by the bank because it "withheld important information."
The Colonial lawsuit is far from the first credit crisis-related securities lawsuit in which governmental intervention of one sort or another is involved. For example, the government’s role in brokering Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch features prominently in the securities lawsuit recently filed against BofA (about which refer here). The need for governmental rescues has also featured in a number of other credit crisis-related securities lawsuits, including for example, the lawsuits filed against Fortis (refer here), ING (refer here), and the Royal Bank of Scotland (refer here). But so far as I know, the Colonial case is the first securities lawsuit where the allegations are tied directly to the TARP funding program.
I supposed that after more than two years of credit crisis litigation, as well as massive governmental involvement in the financial markets, it should come as little surprise that we have reached the point where lawsuits relating to the bailout efforts themselves are starting to arise. I suppose we should start getting ready now for the inevitable stimulus-related lawsuits which undoubtedly will follow not long after Congress finishes its current efforts.
The Colonial lawsuit does raise an interesting categorization issue, which is whether the case properly should be counted as credit crisis-related and grouped with the previously filed credit crisis-related securities lawsuits. After reviewing Colonial’s press releases and considering the reasons why the company needed TARP money in the first place, I have concluded that the lawsuit is related to the ongoing credit crisis and therefore it belongs in my running tally of credit crisis related securities lawsuits.
My running tally of the subprime and credit crisis-related securities lawsuits can be accessed here. With the addition of the Colonial lawsuit, the tally of subprime and credit crisis-related securities lawsuits that have been filed during the period 2007 through 2009 now stands at 156, of which 15 have been filed in 2009. A spreadsheet showing the 2009 credit crisis related securities lawsuits can be accessed here.
One final note about TARP — the Bank Lawyer’s Blog reports (here) that some banks in the Dallas area are advertising the fact that they haven’t taken TARP money because they don’t need to. That line of analysis could get awfully murky under the Treasury department’s proposed updated bailout approach, under which banks will be "stress tested" and only the likeliest to survive will receive aid.
Madoff Update: Regular readers know that in addition to my running tally of the subprime and credit crisis-related securities lawsuits, I have also been maintaining a separate tally of Madoff-related litigation. The Madoff-related litigation register, which can be accessed here, is subdivided into multiple tables, reflecting the various types of litigation that has arisen out of the Madoff scandal.
I recently updated the Madoff lawsuit register by adding a number of new Madoff lawsuits, based on excellent information, materials and links provided by several readers, including in particular Jon Jacobson of the Greenberg Traurig law firm. My special thanks to all for the contributions.
And Finally: Describing it as "the beginning of a long process," the SEC Actions blog has a post (here) discussing the partial settlement that Bernard Madoff has reached with the SEC. The WSJ.com Law Blog also has a post here describing the partial settlement. A link to the SEC’s litigation release regarding the partial settlement can be found here.