failed bank litigation

In the latest twist in a long-running legal saga, on March 15, 2019, the FDIC announced that it had reached a $335 million settlement of the negligence action the agency had brought against PwC in connection with the accounting firm’s audit work for the defunct Colonial Bank. The curious thing about this settlement is that it represents only a little more half of the amount that a federal district court judge awarded the FDIC as damages in a July 2018 order in the case. The FDIC’s terse March 15, 2019 press release announcing the settlement 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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Ninth CircuitDuring the course of the wave of failed bank litigation following in the wake of the global financial crisis has been a raft of related coverage litigation addressing the question of whether coverage for claims by the FDIC as receiver of the failed bank against the bank’s former directors and officers is precluded by the D&O insurance policy’s Insured vs. Insured exclusion. A number of courts have found the exclusion to be ambiguous and therefore that the exclusion does not preclude coverage for the FDIC-R’s claims (for example, refer here), while other courts have found the specific exclusions at issue to unambiguously preclude coverage (refer for example here). In the most recent court decision to address these issues, the Ninth Circuit, in a short unpublished October 19, 2016 per curiam opinion (here) affirmed the holding of the district court finding the Insured vs. Insured exclusion applicability to claims brought by the FDIC as receiver is ambiguous, and therefore the exclusion cannot be applied to preclude coverage for the FDIC’s claims against the former directors and officers of the failed Pacific Coast National Bank.
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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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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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fdic2013As the global financial crisis has receded further into the past and as other issues have crowded to the top of the agenda, the remaining vestiges from the credit crisis have faded into the background. But though the peak of the crisis is now nearly seven years behind us, the crisis remnants continue to work their way through the legal system. In particular, a large part of the wave of failed bank litigation that the FDIC filed against the former directors and officers of many of the U.S. banks that have failed continues to grind on, as evidenced in the FDIC’s latest professional liability litigation update, which the agency posted on its website on July 28, 2015 (here).
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