Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Another ex-Wilmington Trust officer guilty of fraud

Lender Terranova: I wrongly extended bad loans to developers

Another ex-Wilmington Trust officer guilty of fraud

Wilmington Trust’s headquarters on Rodney Square in Wilmington, DE.
Wilmington Trust’s headquarters on Rodney Square in Wilmington, DE.

(Updated) Another loan officer at the former Wilmington Trust Co. has pleaded guilty to fraud for his role in illegally risking and hiding loan losses in the period leading up to the financial collapse of Delaware's largest bank.

Joseph Terranova, former vice president in the bank's commercial real estate unit, admits he
"conspired to extend credit to customers of the Bank under terms inconsistent with those approved by the Bank's loan committee,"  according to a statement by Delaware's federal prosecutor, Charles M. Oberly 3d.

Terranova and other ex-Wilmington Trust officers -- who aren't named and haven't been charged, but whose identities can easily be figured out by people familiar with the bank from the use of their titles in Oberly's report -- also conspired "to fraudulently conceal the Bank's true financial condition," keeping hundreds of millions of dollars in late and unpaid loans from proper disclosure to government bank examiners and others, according to the government. The unnamed officers were middle managers, not top executives. 

The bad credits included a loan to lower-Delaware developer Michael Zimmerman, who Oberly indicted in January for bank fraud after he failed to use millions in bank funds for the retail centers he had said he would build. Zimmerman denied wrongdoing and has been fighting the charges.

The accusations were of special interest to prosecutors because Wilmington Trust was among the banks propped up by taxpayers' federal Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) dollars during the financial crisis that started in 2008. Terranova guilty plea here. Prosecutors' "information" outlining the case here.

It's unclear if prosecutors plan to charge other ex-Wilmington Trust employees. Through a spokeswoman, Oberly wouldn't comment on the case. Oberly's allegations appear to bolster some of the factual claims in private shareholder lawsuits against the bank -- but they stop short of accusing top managers who the shareholders also blame.
Bloomberg story here, Wilmington News-Journal story here.

Pennsylvania-based former Wilmington Trust lender Kevin McAllister was sentenced to 20 months in prison in February for his role in frauds that cost the bank $2.5 million.

In my February story "Who killed Wilmington Trust?" (Philly.com here, Philadelphia Inquirer here), I asked if the bank's failure was really just the result of poor judgement by the bank's sales-oriented bosses and lenders -- or whether there were other bankers besides McAllister who ripped off and damaged their coworkers, shareholders and community, while top management failed to stop them.

One big difference, so far: In Pennsylvania, McAllister collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in his illegal scheme. By contrast, Oberly's accusations against  Terranova don't make clear why he and other veteran bankers would risk their careers to protect developers or make losses look less bad than they were.

Oberly is a rare federal prosecutors who has filed criminal charges -- against borrowers as well as bankers -- after the round of bank collapses that began in 2008. How high will he go in blaming former bankers and business customers for killing Wilmington Trust?

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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