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FDIC Files 266 Failed Bank Lawsuits, Seeks $6.8B

WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has now authorized 266 lawsuits resulting from 30 bank and thrift failures, seeking $6.8 billion in damages.

The agency said it has three years to place tort claims and six years to pursue breach-of-contract claims against officers and directors, after a failed bank is shuttered. Some of the lawsuits include "direct claims against insurance carriers such as fidelity bond carriers and title insurance companies."

The 266 lawsuits may seem to be a very small number considering that 383 banks and thrifts have failed since the beginning of 2008, but the FDIC only pursues professional liability lawsuits if they are determined to be "both meritorious and cost-effective," after an investigation that can take as long as 18 months after a bank is shut down.

The FDIC also seeks to settle the claims before going to court.

Kevin Petrasic, a partner partner in the Paul Hastings Global Banking practice in Washington, said that in the aftermath of a banking crisis, "There is always an element of finger-pointing," and that "a significant degree of blame rests across the board, including with an overall culture that, in retrospect, was out of control."

Petrasic added that "ultimately, it will be very hard to effectively determine and pursue an appropriate cause of action and accountability due to these complexities."

As of Aug. 4, the agency had authorized suits against 266 directors and officers of 30 failed institutions, and had also authorized "16 fidelity bond, attorney malpractice, and appraiser malpractice lawsuits." There were also 172 residential malpractice and mortgage fraud lawsuits pending, some of which the agency inherited from failed banks.

D&O filings by the FDIC include lawsuits against former directors and officers of IndyMac Bank of Pasadena, Calif., which failed in July 2008, and was operated under FDIC conservatorship until the agency sold the institution to a group of investors that included J.C. Flowers and Paulson & Co. for $13.9 billion in January 2009. The institution is now known as OneWest Bank.

A D&O lawsuit was also filed against officers of Heritage Community Bank of Glenwood, Ill., which failed in February 2009, and was acquired by MB Financial (MBFI) of Chicago. MB Financial was recently featured in TheStreet's updated story on 10 Midwest bank stocks .

Other FDIC lawsuits have been placed against former officers and directors of 1st Centennial Bank of Redlands Calif., which was shuttered by state regulators in January 2009 and purchased from the FDIC by First California Financial (FCAL) of Camarillo; Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, Ga., which failed in August 2008 and was purchased from the FDIC by Regions Financial (RF); and Washington Mutual, which was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision in September 2008 and purchased from the FDIC by JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

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