FDIC Goes After CEOs of Failed Banks

November 10, 2010|By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

For former insiders at some of the several hundred banks that collapsed during the financial crisis and in its aftermath, a day of reckoning has arrived.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has told dozens of former bank officers and directors that it has drawn up lawsuits accusing them of misdeeds such as fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. The federal agency is seeking damages to help offset losses in the nation’s deposit insurance fund.

It’s time, the FDIC warns these officials, to sit down and work out settlements — or head to court to decide the matters there.

The letters being sent by the agency are “very detailed,” said Jeffrey A. Tisdale, a Los Angeles lawyer for former officials of five banks targeted by the agency.

“I mean eight to 10 single-spaced pages of purported misdeeds,” he said.

The showdowns follow FDIC probes that typically take well over a year.

“We’re only doing this after careful investigation. We don’t bring suit every time a bank fails,” said Richard Osterman, the FDIC’s acting general counsel.

The FDIC board has authorized suits seeking to recover more than $2 billion from more than 80 former bank officials, up from about 50 a month ago, Osterman said. The number could multiply as the agency works through its investigative backlog.

The agency could end up suing or settling with former insiders of about one-quarter of the more than 300 banks that have failed since the start of 2008, officials say.

“This is only the first wave,” Tisdale said. “I’ve got my next five-year professional plan laid out pretty well.”

Although the FDIC says it will try to settle the cases, officials expect to file a significant number of suits. Criminal charges could result in a few cases.

“We are investigating [criminal] bank fraud and related cases in many different parts of the country, including in California,” said Fred Gibson, deputy inspector general at the agency.

So far only two civil suits have been filed. The first, filed in July, accuses four executives of Pasadena‘s defunct IndyMac Bank of negligence in granting construction and development loans that the suit says were unlikely to be repaid. The defendants are contesting the suit, which seeks $300 million in damages.

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