BankAtlantic Bancorp ( BBX) on Monday sued outspoken analyst Richard Bove for defamation and negligence for using the wrong data in a recent report speculating about the future of several banks following the collapse of IndyMac Bancorp. The July 13 report, titled "Who is Next?," looked at Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and holding company data to determine which bank might be the next to fail. The report consists mostly of tables looking at nonperforming assets as a percentage of gross loans and reserves of bank holding companies. BankAtlantic, a community bank located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., argued that Bove's comparison does not make sense in BankAtlantic's case. BankAtlantic shares fell as much as 32.5% to 81 cents following the report. The bank filed suit against the influential Bove and employer Ladenburg Thalmann ( LTS) on Monday morning in state court for Broward County, Fla., according to a release. "While Bove's report purports to consider which banks might fail, he failed to examine the health of the banks and thrifts in his report," BankAtlantic's CEO Alan Levan said in the statement. "Instead, he only examined holding company data which, in at least our case, is meaningless information. This is simply shocking." In the report, Bove wrote that a ratio of nonperforming loans to total assets above 5% "suggests danger." He also analyzes the ratio of reserves to an institution's non-performing assets. A ratio above 40% "is the danger zone." Bove showed BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. approaching those levels in the first quarter. BankAtlantic of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a federally chartered savings bank, supervised by the Office of Thrift Supervision. The thrift is held by BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc., of which 23% is held by BFC Financial Corp. ( BFF).
Levan points out that BankAtlantic Bancorp and BFC Financial hold other assets and business, "which make the comparison nonsensical," he said. "Simply by way of example of the gross errors in this 'analysis,' Bove compared the non-performing loans of BankAtlantic with the capital of BFC Financial Corp., a public company that owns 23% of BankAtlantic Bancorp that in turn owns BankAtlantic and other business lines," Levan said. "The so-called analysis itself was totally false and the impression it created foreseeable." Bove declined to comment. A disclaimer at the end of the first page of the report in question, however, says, "As always while the numbers come from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee their accuracy." A Ladenburg spokesman said the firm "will defend ourselves against this meritless lawsuit." Shares of BankAtlantic, down more than 80% from its 52-week high of $9.60, closed up 12.5% to $1.89 Monday. Sr. Banking Analyst Phil van Doorn contributed to this report.