BankAtlantic Sues Over Analyst's Report
The banks are getting testy, and in some ways it's certainly reminiscent of various mortgage lenders during the height of a spate of lender failures in the middle part of last year. Case in point: Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. (BBX) has decided to sue Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. analyst Richard Bove and the company he works for over a report that didn't call the bank out per se, but included it on a list of banks ordered by a ratio he had calculated. The now-infamous -- and highly-reported on -- piece was titled "Who's Next?" and came in the wake of the failure of IndyMac Bank on July 11. Bove argued that a bank's measure of future troubled could be captured in a ratio that divided non-performing assets by the total of bank reserves and common equity. BankAtlantic ranked number 12 on that list, with a ratio of 38.4 percent in the first quarter. See full analyst's report here. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times covered the lawsuit Tuesday morning, which had BankAtlantic complaining of technical inaccuracies in the calculations. "The problem is that, while Bove's report purports to consider which banks might fail, he failed to examine the health of the banks and thrifts in his report," BankAtlantic said in its pleading, according to the Journal's coverage. "Instead, he only examined holding-company data which, in at least our case, is meaningless information." The bank had earlier complained to Bove directly, and he published a note on the difference between the two after BankUnited's complaint. Both papers suggested that BankAtlantic will have a difficult time proving its case -- but regardless of merit, the lawsuit underscores the tension that often exists in covering any financial sector. It also underscores a growing backlash against analysts and media by some bankers, who see one or both sources as exacerbating (or manufacturing) problems to generate headlines. "I think there are some smaller banks out there that aren't pleased by all of the attention," said one source, an analyst that asked not to be named. "But my experience has been that those choosing to protest the loudest often have the most reason to be upset, for one reason or another." "Tough markets like this always generate tension," he said. Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. has said it will actively defend against the claims made against it, according to the Journal. Disclosure: The author held no positions in BBX when this story was published; further indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.