Alabama One CEO Accuses State Government of Conspiracy
A federal lawsuit filed June 29 by the $602 million, Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based Alabama One Credit Union points to a complex web of conspiracy that's being led by David Byrne, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's chief legal advisor, with the intention of exploiting the credit union for monetary and political gain.
That's the belief held by John Dee Carruth, president/CEO for Alabama One, who spoke with CU Times by phone June 30.
“The political pressure that was placed for personal gain or purposes…it was just astounding,” Carruth said. “And it all appears to be about money.”
According to the complaint filed by Alabama One and Carruth, Byrne along with Sen. Gerald H. Allen (R-Ala.), Alabama Credit Union Administration Administrator Sarah Moore, attorney Justice D. “Jay” Smyth, III – a friend and former law partner of Byrne's – and several others devised a scheme to pressure Alabama One to settle a number of frivolous civil lawsuits brought forth by Smyth.
In addition, the complaint said the ACUA spent $775,000 outside of its budget to create a plot to coerce money out of Alabama One; plus, the ACUA has asked the credit union to cover its legal fees. These facts allude to a scheme for monetary gain backed by a state government that's currently in dire need of its own funding, according to Carruth.
“Alabama has a serious funding issue. There's a huge deficit,” Carruth said. “The next thing we found out is that the state has approved spending $775,000 to go after Alabama One – a state that is broke. We’re looking at closing down state parks and denying veterans benefits.”
According to Contract Review Committee documents posted to the Alabama legislature's website, the $775,000 spent in pursuit of Alabama One encompasses the following:
$75,000 for Montgomery, Ala.-based attorney David Martin, $75,000 for Montgomery-based attorney James Douglas McElvy, and another $25,000 for Martin for litigation defense of the ACUA and former ACUA Administrator Larry Morgan;
$50,000 for Enterprise, Ala.-based accounting firm Carr Riggs & Ingram LLC, for “reviewing loan files/relationships within an agreed upon scope for credit quality, loan risk rating, adherence to the credit union's lending policies and critical loan documentation”;
$250,000 for Atlanta-based law firm Bryan Cave LLP, for “filing an administrative action against a credit union for violating a Memorandum of Understanding issued by the Administration,” which “will likely draw litigation”;
$300,000 for Tuscaloosa-based law firm Reynolds Reynolds & Little LLC for representing the ACUA “in both administrative action and potential circuit court action.”
While a number of events led to the credit union's filing of the federal lawsuit, Carruth said a major motivator was the fact that earlier in June, it came to light that Morgan, who called for the suspension of Carruth and three other Alabama One employees in February 2014, testified in court that he did so for no apparent reason. Morgan also testified that it was not his decision to suspend the employees, and that the suspension letters were in fact copies of memos sent by Smyth to Sen. Allen, according to the suit.
In March 2014, the month following the suspension requests, Morgan resigned as the ACUA's administrator and was replaced by Moore, a former executive at the failed, Montgomery-based Colonial Bank, where she allegedly worked closely with Byrne, the lawsuit states. Soon after Moore settled into her new role, the ACUA issued a cease and desist order to Alabama One and began threatening conservatorship – despite the fact that the NCUA and state regulators deemed the credit union a safe and sound institution, as stated in three letters of commendation congratulating Alabama One for complying with and satisfying many regulatory concerns, according to the suit.
Evidence of the alleged scheme against Alabama One, which included secret meetings held at the state capitol between Smyth, Gov. Bentley, Byrne and Sen. Allen, is based on email documentation and statements made during sworn depositions, according to Birmingham, Ala.-based attorney Jeven R. Sloan, who represents Carruth.
When asked what the defendants named in the lawsuit might have hoped to gain from the conspiracy, aside from monetary gains as a result of the litigation, Carruth said he wasn't sure but assumes it comes down to politics.
“I don't know, some political benefit,” he said. “Back scratching, you could call it. You would have to ask them.”
Also named as defendants in the complaint, in addition to Sen. Allen, Byrne, Smyth and Moore, were Lewis Smyth Winter Ford LLC of Tuscaloosa; Smyth law partner Albert G. Lewis, III; Bobby Cockrell, a Tuscaloosa plaintiff's attorney; former ACUA Administrator Larry D. Morgan; and Doug Key, president/CEO of the $140 million Mutual Savings in Hoover, Ala., who served as a temporary CEO for Alabama One in 2014.
CU Times’ requests for comment from Gov. Bentley, Sen. Allen, Smyth, Moore, Cockrell and Key were not immediately returned.