FDIC goes after former execs of failed banks to recover losses
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may sue as many as 109 former executives of failed banks in an effort to recover federal losses. According to data, which the agency began releasing Tuesday, the FDIC authorized lawsuits to recover approximately $2.5 billion. The FDIC can sue former bank officials after a bank failure in what it calls a "personal liability lawsuit," because the federal agency absorbs all the losses from the failure. Before seeking recoveries from former officials, the FDIC investigates the cause of each bank's failure. Executives including officers, directors, accountants, appraisers and brokers are eligible to be sued for either "gross or simple negligence" in overseeing the bank and its funds. Between 1985 and 1992, the FDIC brought claims against directors and officers in 24% of bank failures. In 2010, two lawsuits were filed with 107 others authorized. The FDIC sued IndyMac Bank in July after the bank's homebuilder lending endeavor essentially failed. According to the complaint, IndyMac's homebuilding division grew its outstanding portfolio from $1.1 billion in 2003 to $2 billion in 2006. The bank was seized in July 2008. At that time, the homebuilder's portfolio had an outstanding balance of about $898.3 million. The FDIC said bank losses from the operation of the homebuilder lending venture stemmed from two things: a disregard for credit policy by lending to individuals who were not credit worthy and a high loan-volume strategy coming off one of the longest appreciating housing markets in more than four decades. The second lawsuit was brought against Illinois-based Heritage Community Bank in November. The FDIC claimed 11 of the bank's former directors "failed to properly manage and supervise Heritage and its commercial real estate lending program." The agency is seeking to recovery $20 million from those executives. The FDIC noted on a new website devoted to tracking personal liability lawsuits that not all bank failure investigations lead to a lawsuit. In 2010, there were 157 bank failures. There were 140 in 2009. Write to Christine Ricciardi.