By Becky Yerak, Chicago Tribune reporter
October 31, 2011
Officers and directors of Mutual Bank issued $10.5 million in “imprudent” dividends, spent $250,000 of the bank’s money on a wedding, and paid $495,000 in defense costs for a spouse’s Medicaid fraud case before the Harvey-based lender failed in July 2009, a federal regulator alleged last week.
Mutual was the bank that financed the purchase by the wife of political fundraiser Tony Rezko of a side lot in a deal that enabled Barack Obama to buy his dream house.
In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois last week, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. also accused the bank of spending $300,000 to hold a board meeting in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
The FDIC is suing eight former directors, two officers and the bank’s lawyer.
The failure of the $1.7 billion-asset bank, which had 10 branches in the Chicago area, is expected to cost the FDIC $775 million. From 2005 to 2009, the lender had nearly doubled in size, fueled by what would turn out to be bad real estate loans, many of which were made to about 15 borrowers. Record-keeping was shoddy, and loan terms were changed at closing with no board approval, the suit said. Mutual had become a “lender of last resort for failed real estate projects,” particularly in the hotel industry, the suit said.
One of the defendants, former bank president and board member Amrish Mahajan, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Daniel McKay, a Vedder Price lawyer representing defendants Arun and Anu Veluchamy, said his clients would “vigorously” challenge the claims in the lawsuit, calling them “without merit.” Arun and Anu Veluchamy were on the board of directors and are the children of the board’s chairman, Pethinaidu Veluchamy. The senior Veluchamy filed for bankruptcy and therefore isn’t named as a defendant.
The lawsuit said the FDIC is seeking to recover more than $115 million in losses the bank suffered on 12 real estate loans, $10.5 million in “unlawful” dividend payments, and nearly $1.1 million in “wasted” corporate assets.
In 2008, for example, the defendants approved a $250,000 payment for the “sponsorship” of a “Mutual Bank function.” In reality, it was a wedding of one of the board members at the Chicago Sheraton, complete with rented Rolls-Royces, the lawsuit said.
And it didn’t appear there was any reason to hold a business meeting in Monte Carlo, the suit said.
The lawsuit said the $10.5 million in dividends to insiders were paid when the bank was in poor financial shape.
The lawsuit also said a series of 2007 “bonuses,” totaling $495,000, were used to help defray legal costs for a spouse in an Illinois Medicaid criminal case. When federal regulators caught on, $202,000 was repaid with a bank loan, but the rest was unpaid.
When Mutual failed, United Central Bank of Garland, Texas, assumed its deposits.