Co-authored by Margaret J. McQuade.
On October 10, a Florida federal judge granted the Securities and Exchange Commission’s motions for partial summary judgment against BankAtlantic (now BBX Capital Corp.) and its former CEO and chairman Alan Levan, finding that the defendants’ public disclosures about their commercial real estate portfolio and their accounting treatment of certain portfolio loans violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The accounting fraud claim stems from BankAtlantic’s October 2007 attempt to sell many of the troubled loans. The company improperly recorded the loans on its books as “held-for-investment” instead of held-for-sale,” and failed to write them down. Management’s concern about the credit quality of the company’s commercial real estate land acquisition and development portfolio had been memorialized in a March 2007 email sent by the CEO in response to a cascade of borrowers requesting extensions, in which he stated, “[i]t’s pretty obvious that the music has stopped…I believe we are in for a long sustained problem in this sector.” The court found that the CEO made false statements in July 2007 during a second quarter earnings call, in which he acknowledged concerns about a subset of the portfolio but stated that, “there are no asset classes that we are concerned about in the portfolio as an asset class” and “the portfolio has always performed extremely well, continues to perform extremely well.” The company’s Forms 10-Q for the first and second quarters of 2007 did not acknowledge the trend of extensions granted and loans downgraded to non-passing status. The court also struck defendant’s affirmative defense that it relied on the professional advice of accountants, agreeing with the SEC’s assertion that the company did not completely disclose the problem to its accountants.
Securities and Exchange Commission v. BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. et al., No. 0:12-cv-60082 (S.D.Fla. October 10, 2013).