Ex-Wilmington Trust President Denies Hiding Bad Loans

Former Wilmington Trust Corp. President Robert V.A. Harra pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to regulators as part of a scheme to hide bad real-estate loans ahead of the bank’s sale to M&T Bank Corp. in 2010.

Harra is one of the highest-ranking bank officials to be charged in connection with the crash of the U.S. real-estate market starting in 2008.

If convicted, Harra could face as long as 25 years in jail for securities fraud and 30 years for falsifying financial entries, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke said at Wednesday’s hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, federal court.

Harra was allowed to go free on $25,000 unsecured bail. A trial date hasn’t been set.

Harra is a “good man,” Michael P. Kelly, Harra’s lawyer, told the judge. “We look forward to going to trial and restoring his sterling reputation in the community.”

The former Wilmington Trust president and three other former executives tried to deceive regulators about underperforming loans before the ailing company was sold to M&T Bank, according to an indictment unsealed Aug. 5.

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 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.

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

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