Trial in the FDIC’s failed bank lawsuit against three former officers of IndyBank commenced on November 6, 2012 in the federal court in Los Angeles. According Scott Reckard’s November 9, 2012 Los Angeles Times article (here), the parties’ counsel have delivered their opening statements. The case, which was the first failed bank lawsuit the FDIC filed as part of the current bank failure wave, is also the first to go to trial.


As detailed here, the FDIC first filed the lawsuit against the former IndyMac officers in June 2010. The FDIC’s lawsuit seeks to recover damages from the individual defendants for "negligence and breach of fiduciary duties." The lawsuit alleges "significant departures from safe and sound banking practices."  As discussed here, in July 2011, the FDIC filed a separate lawsuit against IndyMac’s former CEO, Michael Perry.


There are three individual defendants in the case that is now in trial:  Scott Van Dellen, the former President and CEO of IndyMac’s Homebuilders Division (HBD), who is alleged to have approved all of the loans that are the subject of the FDIC’s suit; Richard Koon, who was HBD’s Chief Lending Officer until mid-2006 and who is alleged to have approved a number of the loans at issue; Kenneth Shellem, who served as HBD’s Chief Compliance Officer until late 2006, and who is alleged to have approved many of the loans at issue.


The case against the three former IndyMac officers has been very vigorously litigated; I detailed the particularly memorable hearing regarding one discovery dispute that arose in the case here. (While writing this article, I reread the article about the discovery dispute; Central District of California Judge Dale Fischer’s comments during the hearing make for very interesting reading, and I commend the article to readers looking for a little diversion.) Among other significant pretrial rulings, in October 2012, Judge Fischer also held that under California law the individuals were not entitled to rely on the business judgment rule, as discussed here.


And in June 2012, as discussed here, in a significant ruling in a related D&O insurance coverage case, Central District of California Judge Gary Klausner held that all of the various IndyMac lawsuits (including the one the FDIC filed against the three former IndyMac officers) were interrelated to the first filed lawsuit, and thus triggered only a single tower of D&O insurance. This holding was of particular significance both to the former IndyMac officers and to the FDIC, as the FDIC’s lawsuit was filed during the policy period of the second insurance tower. The ruling that the subsequent lawsuit are all interrelated to the first filed lawsuit means that the only insurance available for the individuals (and out of which the FDIC might recover from the insurers) is whatever is left under the first tower of insurance.


According to their July 2012 motion to stay the FDIC’s lawsuit against them, the three defendants represented to the court that defense fees in various IndyMac-related lawsuits as well as the costs associated with settlements that had been reached in several of the cases will deplete or threaten to deplete all of the remaining proceeds under the first tower of insurance.  (The motion asserts that defense fees in excess of $50 million and settlements totaling $29 million would deplete the $80 million insurance tower.) The defendants sought to stay the FDIC’s lawsuit against them so that they could pursue their appeal of Judge Klausner’s insurance coverage ruling. The defendants’ motion can be found here. Judge Fischer denied the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings.


The upshot of the unavailability of the second tower of insurance and the apparent exhaustion of the first tower is that the three individual defendants face the prospect of that there might not be any insurance available to protect them in the event that the trial results in an award of damages against them (subject of course to the outcome of the pending appeals of Judge Klausner’s insurance coverage ruling).


The FDIC’s original complaint had named a fourth individual, William Rothman, as a defendant as well. According to a footnote in the motion to stay referenced above, Rothman had settled with the FDIC in exchange for Rothman’s assignment to the FDIC of Rothman’s rights under the second tower of insurance.  The separate suit against IndyMac’s former CEO, Michael Perry, remains pending.


In any event, it will be very interesting to see how this case proceeds. It is highly unusual for a case like this to proceed to trial, particularly where there may be limited or even no insurance out of which the FDIC may be able to recover any judgment. (Interestingly, in the defendants’ motion to stay referenced above, counsel for the defendants asserts that “the FDIC specifically structured this lawsuit in order to reach the Tower 2 Policy,” in which case Judge Klausner’s insurance coverage ruling upset a part of the FDIC’s strategy in their case against the three individual defendants.) Obviously, the outcome of the appeal in the insurance coverage case is of keen interest to the FDIC as well as to the individual defendants.


I am sure that there are many readers who will be following this trial closely and who may be able to monitor the case more closely than I can. I would be grateful if readers would be willing to keep me informed about the case.