After a run of several years where numerous banks failed each year, no banks failed in 2018, and only four failed in 2019. The low number of bank failures last year, and the absence of any bank failures the year before, clearly are signs that the economy is strong and the banking industry generally is profitable. But the banking sector is notoriously volatile and historically registers all of the economy’s ups and downs vividly. Is it possible that the current banking sector calm itself foreshadows trouble ahead? That is the question asked in a January 6, 2020 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Few Bank Failures Could Be a Warning Sign for U.S. Financial System” (here).
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Want some good news? During calendar year 2018, there were exactly zero bank failures in the United States. Zero. Nil. Nada. Zilch. The last time there were no U.S. bank failures was waaaay back in 2006. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then. But the best part of all is that because of a strong economy, and because of the purifying effects of the financial refiners’ fire, the banking sector is as healthy as it has been in many years. Hugh Son’s January 10, 2019 CNBC article about the U.S. banks’ current healthy state can be found here.
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fdic1The FDIC updated its website late last week to reflect developments in the professional liability lawsuits the agency filed in the wake of the wave of bank failures that followed the global financial crisis. The unmistakable impression from the agency’s update is that the FDIC’s failed bank litigation is winding down and in its final stages. At the same time, however, a different page on the agency’s website arguably conveys a different message. The agency’s website’s failed bank list shows that though the financial crisis is well in the past, there have been a noticeable number of bank failures this year, many of them involving sizeable banks  — a development that is worth considering and keeping an eye on.
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GeorgiaAs readers will recall, last week I published a post about the split verdict a Northern District of Georgia jury entered in the civil lawsuit the FDIC had filed against certain former directors of the failed Buckhead Community Bank. The verdict arose in one of the rare failed bank cases to actually go all the way to trial. In the following guest post, Robert Long Tod Sawicki, Elizabeth Gingold Clark and Lauren Tapson Macon of the Alston & Bird law firm discuss the Buckhead Community Bank lawsuit trial and verdict. Alston & Bird represents the defendants in the case. I would like to thank Robert and his colleagues for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the Alston & Bird attorneys’ guest post.
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GeorgiaOn October 25, 2016, in one of the few failed bank lawsuits remaining from the bank failure litigation wave that followed the global financial crisis, and one of the very few failed bank lawsuits to go all the way to trial, a civil jury returned a verdict of $4.98 million in the Northern District of Georgia against several former directors and officers of the failed Buckhead Community Bank of Buckhead, Georgia. While the jury returned a verdict in favor of the FDIC as receiver of the failed bank on four of the loans at issue in the case, the jury found the defendants not liable for six other loans for which the FDIC sought recovery.
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fdicAs we approach what will be the eighth anniversary of the peak of the global financial crisis, many of the effects of the crisis have subsided. But while the crisis and many of the worst of its effects have largely faded into the past, a number of litigated matters related to the crisis have continued to grind through the courts. Among other things, the wave of failed bank lawsuits – that is, lawsuits filed by the FDIC against the former directors and officers of banks that failed in the wake of the crisis – has continued to roll along. However, at this point, it looks as if the failed bank litigation has just about played out. Now that the litigation is winding down, it may be time take a retrospective look at the failed bank litigation wave.
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fdic sealIn the FDIC’s latest quarterly banking profile, the agency report overall reflects a generally healthy U.S.  banking sector. However, problems may loom on the horizon at least for some banks. In addition, the statistics reflect significant changes that have changed the face of the industry just in the past few years. The FDIC’s Quarterly Banking Profile for the Fourth Quarter 2015 can be found here, and the agency’s February 23, 2016 press release about the report can be found here.
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federal depositFollowing the recent bank failure wave, the FDIC filed liability actions against the former directors and offices of many of the failed banks, as detailed here. But the FDIC did not sue the former executives of every failed bank. Why did the FDIC sue the executives of some failed banks but not others? Was it because the failed banks the agency targeted had engaged in qualitatively different conduct? Or was it merely because the ones the FDIC sued had D&O insurance in force from which the agency could extract a monetary recovery?
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ncOn August 18, 2015, in an interesting opinion that takes a close look at exculpatory bylaw issues and the business judgment rule under North Carolina law, the Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of the failed bank lawsuit the FDIC had filed against former directors and officers of Cooperative Bank of Wilmington, N.C. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of all of the claims against the director defendants but reversed the lower court’s ruling as to the negligence and breach of fiduciary duty claims against the officer defendants.
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tenthcircuitIn an important decision concerning D&O insurance coverage in connection with failed bank claims, the Tenth Circuit, applying Kansas law, held that a D&O policy’s insured vs. insured exclusion unambiguously precluded coverage for claims brought by the FDIC as receiver of a failed bank against the bank’s former directors and officers. The Tenth Circuit’s decision arguably contrasts with the Eleventh Circuit’s December 2014 decision in the Community Bank & Trust case (about which refer here), in which the Eleventh Circuit had held that the insured vs. insured exclusion at issue in that case was ambiguous with respect to the question of whether it precluded coverage for FDIC’s failed bank claims. However, the specific language in the exclusion at issue in this case precluding coverage for claims brought a “receiver” of the insured company – language not present in the policy the Eleventh Circuit considered — was a dispositive factor in the Tenth Circuit’s conclusion about the exclusion’s applicability. A copy of the Tenth Circuit’s August 6, 2015 decision can be found here.
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