By Julie Montanaro
August 2, 2013
Wakulla County, FL - Five men who used to run a local bank are now being sued for more than 14 million dollars.
Wakulla Bank failed and shut its doors back in 2010.
Now the FDIC is claiming the men who signed off on loans were negligent - and should pay for it.
Wakulla Bank was put on a state watch list in August 2009 and ordered to make some changes.
Then-bank president Walter Dodson reassured customers their money and their bank was safe.
"We have roots here in Wakulla County. Our customers are here. So this agreement is going to make us stronger," Dodson said in an interview in September 2009.
It didn't. In October 2010, federal regulators took over the bank and sold it.
Now the FDIC is suing Dodson, former vice presidents Scott Gaby and William Versiga, as well as former directors Gerald Bryant and Walter Roberts.
The suit, filed in federal court this week, accuses the men of negligence and seeks more than 14 million dollars in damages.
The suit says the men violated internal policies, banking regulations and sound banking practices.
It says the bank's at-risk assets, called 'adversely classified' in the banking business-- soared from 1.6 million in 2006 to more than 75 million in 2009.
In the suit, the FDIC says the men ignored repeated warnings by regulators-- and their own employees-- about its high risk real estate portfolio. And the suit says it took them more than three years to set up a credit underwriting department.
"Prior to that time, the defendants regularly approved loans and loan renewals based on borrowers' and guarantors' incomplete, outdated and unverified financial information on which defendants required little or no credit analysis," the suit reads.
All five men are being represented by Atlanta-based attorney Bard Brockman.
He says the men who ran Wakulla Bank will fight this lawsuit and defeat the FDIC. He says he does not yet have access to all the data and documents so he cannot comment on any specifics, but Brockman said the virtual collapse of the real estate market is highly relevant here-- especially in coastal areas like Wakulla County.
A spokesman for the FDIC says it has filed 69 lawsuits like this against the officers and directors of failed banks since 2008. It has authorized 120 such lawsuits and more are expected.