SEC Charges Former Chairman of Major Mortgage Lender With $1.5 Billion Securities Fraud and Related TARP Scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., June 16, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the former chairman and majority owner of what was once the nation's largest non-depository mortgage lender with orchestrating a large-scale securities fraud scheme and attempting to scam the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
The SEC alleges that Lee B. Farkas through his company Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. (TBW) sold more than $1.5 billion worth of fabricated or impaired mortgage loans and securities to Colonial Bank. Those loans and securities were falsely reported to the investing public as high-quality, liquid assets. Farkas also was responsible for a bogus equity investment that caused Colonial Bank to misrepresent that it had satisfied a prerequisite necessary to qualify for TARP funds. When Colonial Bank's parent company — Colonial BancGroup, Inc. — issued a press release announcing it had obtained preliminary approval to receive $550 million in TARP funds, its stock price jumped 54 percent in the remaining two hours of trading, representing its largest one-day price increase since 1983.
"As the country's mortgage markets began to falter, Farkas arranged the sale of more than one billion dollars worth of mortgage loans and securities he knew to be fictitious or impaired," said Lorin Reisner, Deputy Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "Farkas also lied about a sham equity investment he engineered to defraud U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program."
According to the SEC's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Farkas executed the fraudulent scheme from March 2002 until August 2009, when TBW — a privately-held company headquartered in Ocala, Fla. — filed for bankruptcy. TBW was the largest customer of Colonial Bank's Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division (MWLD). Because TBW generally did not have sufficient capital to internally fund the mortgage loans it originated, it relied on financing arrangements primarily through Colonial Bank's MWLD to fund such mortgage loans.
According to the SEC's complaint, TBW began to experience liquidity problems and overdrew its then-limited warehouse line of credit with Colonial Bank by approximately $15 million each day. The SEC alleges that Farkas pressured an officer at Colonial Bank to assist in concealing TBW's overdraws through a pattern of "kiting" whereby certain debits to TBW's warehouse line of credit were not entered until after credits due to the warehouse line of credit for the following day were entered. As this kiting activity increased in scope, TBW was overdrawing its accounts with Colonial Bank by approximately $150 million per day.
The SEC alleges that in order to conceal this initial fraudulent conduct, Farkas devised a plan for TBW to create and submit fictitious loan information to Colonial Bank. Farkas also directed the creation of fictitious mortgage-backed securities assembled from the fraudulent loans. By the end of 2007, the scheme consisted of approximately $500 million in fake residential mortgage loans and approximately $1 billion in severely impaired residential mortgage loans and securities. As a direct result of Farkas's misconduct, these fictitious and impaired loans were misrepresented as high-quality assets on Colonial BancGroup's financial statements.
The SEC alleges that in addition to causing Colonial BancGroup to misrepresent its assets, Farkas caused BancGroup to misstate to investors and TARP officials that it had obtained commitments for a $300 million capital infusion, which would qualify Colonial Bank for TARP funding. Farkas falsely told BancGroup that a foreign-held investment bank had committed to financing TBW's equity investment in Colonial Bank. Contrary to his representations to BancGroup and the investing public, Farkas never secured financing or sufficient investors to fund the capital infusion. When BancGroup and TBW later mutually announced the termination of their stock purchase agreement, essentially signaling the end of Colonial Bank's pursuit of TARP funds, BancGroup's stock declined 20 percent.
The SEC's complaint charges Farkas with violations of the antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties. The SEC also seeks an officer-and-director bar against Farkas as well as an equitable order prohibiting him from serving in a senior management or control position at any mortgage-related company or other financial institution and from holding any position involving financial reporting or disclosure at a public company.
The SEC's case was investigated by William P. Hicks, M. Graham Loomis, Aaron W. Lipson, Yolanda L. Ross and Barry R. Lakas of the Atlanta Regional Office. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the TARP, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The SEC brought its enforcement action in coordination with these other members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
The SEC's investigation is continuing.
# # #
For more information concerning this enforcement action, contact:
Lorin L. Reisner
Deputy Director, SEC Enforcement Division
Rhea Kemble Dignam — Regional Director
William P. Hicks — Associate Regional Director
SEC's Atlanta Regional Office