The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil fraud charges against three former executives at IndyMac, accusing them of misleading investors about the lender’s financial condition before its 2008 collapse.
With $32bn in assets when it failed, IndyMac ranked at the time behind only Continental Illinois among the biggest US financial companies to be shuttered.
The SEC on Friday accused Michael Perry, IndyMac’s one-time chief executive, and former finance chiefs Scott Keys and S. Blair Abernathy of filing “false” disclosures in 2007-08, both in the bank’s annual report as well as in offering materials for a $100m stock sale.
Mr Abernathy agreed to pay more than $126,000 in penalties, disgorgement and interest to settle the SEC’s charges. He did not admit to or deny the allegations, the commission said.
“These corporate executives made false and misleading disclosures about IndyMac at a time when the company’s financial condition was rapidly deteriorating,” said Lorin Reisner, the SEC’s deputy director of enforcement.
“Truthful and accurate disclosure to investors is particularly critical during a time of crisis, and the federal securities laws do not become optimal when the news is negative.”
The IndyMac executives made “rosy projections” even as the bank sought to shore up its capital and liquidity, and failed to fully disclose its precarious financial condition as it issued stock, it is alleged.
Gregory Bruch, a lawyer for Mr Keys, disputed the claims, noting IndyMac had told investors in February 2008 that 2007 was a “terrible year” for the company.
Mr Bruch added: “This is a lousy case …We are going to try it, and we are going to win it.”
Robert Fairbank, a lawyer acting for Mr Abernathy, declined to comment.
Mr Abernathy was also suspended from appearing or practising before the SEC as an accountant for at least two years.
Jean Veta, Mr Perry’s lawyer, said: “The SEC’s complaint is completely meritless …IndyMac, and Mr Perry, were the victims of a bank run and the unprecedented financial tsunami that nobody – not Mr Perry, not the SEC, nor anybody else – saw coming.”
The Office of Thrift Supervision, IndyMac’s main regulator, said in July 2008 that “the immediate cause” of the closing was a run on the bank’s deposits that continued after the release of a letter from Charles Schumer, the New York senator, expressing concerns about the lender’s viability.
Mr Abernathy, who had run IndyMac’s speciality-lending business, replaced Mr Keys as chief financial officer in April 2008.
Mr Keys left the bank for medical reasons, Mr Bruch said. “He kept his stock until the bitter end,” Mr Bruch added. “He didn’t profit from this.”
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