Bank regulators have accused four former executives of failed IndyMac Bank of negligence in making loans to homebuilders and are seeking a total $300 million in damages.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which took over California-based IndyMac when it collapsed two years ago, filed the civil lawsuit against the four executives in federal court in Los Angeles. The suit, filed July 2, is the FDIC's first legal volley related to the wave of bank failures in the financial crisis, and an FDIC spokesman said Wednesday that more can be expected in the future.
The FDIC alleges in the suit that the four IndyMac officers "negligently" approved loans to homebuilders around the country that had slim chance of being repaid.
The four deny the FDIC's allegations.
The collapse and seizure of IndyMac in July 2008, with about $30.2 billion in assets, was one of the biggest bank failures in U.S. history. It also was the costliest failure in the current wave for the federal deposit insurance fund, with an estimated loss of $12.7 billion.
The four former officials of the bank's Homebuilder Division are Scott Van Dellen, president and CEO of the division until the seizure of IndyMac; Richard Koon, its chief lending officer from July 2001 to July 2006; Kenneth Shellem, chief credit officer; and William Rothman, chief lending officer from July 2006 to July 2008.
Among other things, the executives approved loans with insufficient collateral and to borrowers that weren't creditworthy and known to be in financial trouble, the FDIC alleged.
"The charges by the FDIC are completely false and we will vigorously defend against them," Michael Fitzgerald, the attorney for Van Dellen and Rothman, said in a statement. "All loans within the Homebuilder Division met strict underwriting standards, including significant documentation requirements, and were issued to creditworthy homebuilders. ... Loans and lending procedures from this management team were regularly reviewed by multiple regulators and auditors, and given satisfactory marks or better."
Attorney Kirby Behre, representing Shellem and Koon, said: "The FDIC has unfortunately scapegoated four hardworking individuals at a small division of IndyMac and blamed them for a (housing) market crash nobody saw coming."
David Barr, an FDIC spokesman, said the agency "conducts an extensive investigation before filing lawsuits against former officers and directors or other professionals of a failed bank."
"Complaints are only filed where we can demonstrate individual breaches of duty by those named," Barr said.
He said suits by the agency against former executives of other failed banks could be expected in the future.
The agency has sent letters to former executives of fallen banks and their insurance carriers advising them that suits could be filed against them.
In March 2009, the FDIC completed the sale of IndyMac for $13.9 billion to OneWest, a new bank formed by an investor group that included billionaire George Soros and Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. The new bank is called OneWest Bank.
The FDIC suit was first reported Wednesday by The Los Angeles Times.
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