Washington, D.C. – February 24, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the former treasurer of the one-time largest non-depository mortgage lender in the country with aiding and abetting a $1.5 billion securities fraud scheme and an attempt to scam the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
The SEC alleges that Desiree E. Brown, the former treasurer of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. (TBW), helped enable the sale of more than $1.5 billion in fictitious and impaired mortgage loans and securities from TBW to Colonial Bank, and caused them to be falsely reported to the investing public as high-quality, liquid assets. Brown also helped cause Colonial Bank to misrepresent that it had satisfied a prerequisite necessary to qualify for TARP funds.
The SEC previously charged former TBW chairman and majority owner Lee B. Farkas in June 2010. Farkas also was arrested in June by criminal authorities. In a related action today, Brown pleaded guilty to criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice in the Eastern District of Virginia.
“Brown willingly participated with Farkas in a $1.5 billion fraud on Colonial Bank and its investors,” said Lorin L. Reisner, Deputy Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Brown also aided efforts by Farkas to mislead Colonial Bank and its regulators regarding the bank’s application for TARP funds.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Brown and Farkas perpetrated the fraudulent scheme from March 2002 to August 2009, when Colonial Bank was seized by regulators and Colonial BancGroup and TBW both 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.
The SEC alleges that when TBW began to experience liquidity problems and overdrew its then-limited warehouse line of credit with Colonial Bank by approximately $15 million each day, Brown and Farkas and an officer of Colonial Bank concealed the overdraws through a pattern of “kiting” in which certain debits were not entered until after credits due for the following day were entered. In order to conceal this initial fraudulent conduct, Brown, Farkas and the Colonial Bank officer created and submitted fictitious loan information to Colonial Bank and created 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. 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, Brown assisted Farkas in causing BancGroup to misstate publicly that it had obtained commitments for a $300 million capital infusion that would qualify Colonial Bank for TARP funding. In fact, Farkas and Brown never secured financing or sufficient investors to fund the capital infusion. When BancGroup issued a press release announcing it had obtained preliminary approval to receive $550 million in TARP funds, its stock price jumped 54 percent – its largest one-day price increase since 1983. When BancGroup and TBW later mutually announced the termination of their stock purchase agreement and signaled the end of Colonial Bank’s pursuit of TARP funds, BancGroup’s stock declined 20 percent.
The SEC’s complaint charges Brown with violations of the antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Brown consented to the entry of a judgment permanently enjoining her from violation of Rule 13b2-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and from aiding and abetting violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), 13(b)(2)(B) and 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13 thereunder. The proposed preliminary settlement, under which the SEC’s requests for financial penalties against Brown would remain pending, is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s case was investigated by 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, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Civil Division. 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.
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For more information concerning this enforcement action, contact:
Lorin L. Reisner
Deputy Director, SEC Division of Enforcement
Rhea Kemble Dignam, Regional Director
William P. Hicks, Associate Regional Director
SEC’s Atlanta Regional Office