Ex-Wilmington Trust President Indicted Over Hiding Bad Loans

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Former Wilmington Trust Corp. President Robert V.A. Harra was indicted on U.S. charges that he lied to regulators as part of a scheme to hide bad real-estate loans.

Harra conspired with three other ex-executives to deceive federal regulators looking into the bank’s portfolio of loans a year before the company was sold to M&T Bank Corp. in 2010, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Wilmington, Delaware.

“The failure by these individuals to properly inform regulators and investors about the true financial condition of Wilmington Trust resulted in significant harm,” U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly II said in an e-mailed statement.

Harra is one of the highest-ranking bank officials to be indicted in connection with the crash of the U.S. real-estate market starting in 2008. David R. Gibson, the bank’s former chief financial officer, was also charged. William North, Wilmington Trust’s ex-chief credit officer, and Kevyn Rakowski, the company’s former controller, were indicted in May.

Founded by the DuPont family in 1903, Wilmington Trust put itself up for sale in 2010 as it prepared to report a sixth straight quarterly loss. In the four days before Buffalo, New York-based M&T bought the bank for about $351 million in stock, Wilmington Trust lost 46 percent of its value.

‘Unproven Allegations’

“Mr. Harra will vigorously fight these unproven allegations and has no doubt that he will prevail,” his lawyer, Andrew Lawler, said in an e-mailed statement.

Kenneth Breen, Gibson’s lawyer, denied allegations that his client conspired to misrepresent the strength of Wilmington Trust’s real-estate loans.

“Mr. Gibson has done nothing wrong,” he said in an interview.

Henry Klingeman, a lawyer for Rakowski, said his client will plead not guilty to the charges. David Wilks, North’s attorney, said in an interview his client “did nothing wrong and was following a practice the bank had in place for decades.”

Bad bets on real-estate deals in Delaware’s southern counties hurt the bank’s loan portfolio. According to the indictment, Harra, Gibson and the others took steps to hide the deterioration.

North and Rakowski are accused of excluding a large number of the loans that were 90 days past due from the bank’s internal reports in 2009. The two knew their actions would conceal information from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve, according to prosecutors.

In a related civil suit filed by the SEC the four are accused of conspiring to hide more than $350 million in delinquent loans from regulators.

The case is U.S. v. Gibson, 15-cr-00023, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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