Failed Banker Named Alabama CU Regulator
Former banker Sarah Moore was selected by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to replace former ACUA administrator Larry Morgan, according to Jennifer Ardis, communications director for the governor's office.
Moore was previously EVP and CFO of the failed Colonial Bank based in Montgomery, Ala., and Colonial BancGroup, according to her LinkedIn profile.
When Colonial Bank failed in 2009, it was the sixth-largest U.S. bank failure and the largest in Alabama’s history, according to national media reports.
Moore did not return a message requesting comment by press time.
Moore was appointed April 15, and her appointment will be effective July 1.
"Sarah brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position," Ardis told CU Times on Sunday. "The governor appreciates her service."
According to her LinkedIn profile, she is currently director of The Renaissance Companies Inc. and was CFO of Colonial Bank from 1996 to 2009. She remained in that position from August 2009 to November 2009 during the transition of Colonial Bank to BB&T.
Moore’s profile also said she was EVP and COO at Colonial Bank and Colonial BancGroup from 2000 to 2003, and served from 1987 to 1996 as an audit manager at Coopers & Lybrand, which merged with PriceWaterhouse in 1998.
Colonial’s colossal failure prompted the first lawsuit filed by the FDIC against a failed bank’s accountants, according to court records and media reports.
“Colonial’s closure was triggered by the discovery that its largest mortgage banking customer, Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., had committed a massive, multi-year fraud against Colonial, resulting in financial statements that grossly misstated Colonial’s true financial condition,” according to a lawsuit filed Oct. 31, 2012 by FDIC against PwC, which served as the bank’s external auditor and Crowe Horwath, which provided internal audit services.
The TBW fraud left a huge hole in the assets reported on Colonial’s books and ultimately caused enormous losses, the complaint said.
Moore did not face any criminal charges related to Colonial’s demise, but court records list Sarah H. Moore among the “individuals who are present, former and/or potential defendants” in a class action suit filed against Colonial BancGroup by numerous retirement systems.
In that case, a judge in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division, approved a $10.5 million settlement on April 18, 2012, according to the settlement agreement.
The League of Southeastern Credit Unions told members last week that Moore is slated to start her new position with ACUA on July 1.
"Since Larry Morgan announced his resignation as Alabama Credit Union Administration Administrator, we have been watching the situation closely,” Patrick La Pine, league president, stated in a letter dated April 18 that was emailed to league member CEOs.
“Early in the process the LSCU Governmental Affairs team met with Gov. Bentley’s chief of staff and appointments secretary to discuss the position. We gave our input into the type of regulator we felt was necessary to support Alabama state-chartered unions, while also providing for a safe and sound industry,” La Pine wrote in the letter. “From the beginning, the governor’s office said they would take our input into consideration and assured us they would make a well-thought out appointment.”
La Pine’s letter said league staff are working to set up a meeting with Moore and will extend an invitation to attend the Southeast Credit Union Conference in Orlando and Leadership Development Conference in November.
Colonial Bank, which had about 275 locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Nevada, was closed on Aug. 14, 2009 by the Alabama State Banking Department, according to the FDIC website.
When Colonial Bank failed, the FDIC was appointed receiver and the failed bank’s assets were acquired by BB&T.
Just a few months before the failure, Colonial founder and CEO Bobby Lowder, who also served as chairman of the board, announced May 28, 2009, that he was stepping down, according to an April 4, 2011 Forbes article.
Lowder, who had been a dominant force at Auburn University since George Wallace appointed him to Auburn’s board of trustees in 1983, had donated tens of millions of dollars to the school’s athletic department and wielded great power over the football program, including influencing the hiring of coaches, according to a Jan. 8, 2011 New York Times article.
Colonial’s failure spawned numerous SEC actions, criminal charges and guilty pleas.
Following investigations by the FBI and SEC into Florida real estate deals involving Colonial, a shareholder lawsuit was filed, accusing the bank of misleading investors into believing Colonial could secure money through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to media reports.
Moore was a lead witness in the criminal trial of Lee Bentley Farkas, founder and former chairman of the Ocala, Fla.-based TBW, which ceased operations in August 2009, following an FBI raid and suspension by the Federal Housing Administration and the Government National Mortgage Association, according to national media reports and court records.
During the Farkas trial, prosecutors contended that Catherine Kissick, formerly SVP, assistant treasurer and head of Colonial Bank’s Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division, and her deputy, Teresa Kelly, helped TBW conceal overdrafts in its main banking account. Those false entries enabled TBW to sell “dummy loans” to investors, according to an April 4, 2011 article in the Ocala Star Banner.
Moore, who was called as the government’s first witness in the trial, said an application for TARP funds had been filed with the FDIC and other regulators, and that the application included balance sheets listing supposedly worthless assets, the article said.
"If a bank employee and a bank customer are working together, it's very difficult to find errors or omissions [on a financial filing]," Moore stated during her testimony. "A customer is typically a check on a bank and a bank employee is a check on the customer. If these two are working together, it makes it very difficult to find any issues."
Farkas was convicted in 2011 by a federal jury on 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud for masterminding a $2.9 billion scheme that contributed to the collapse of TBW and Colonial, according to court records.
Prosecutors sought a maximum 385 years in prison and criticized his lack of remorse, saying his one regret was "getting caught," according to national media reports.
Farkas, 61, is serving a 30-year sentence at a medium-security federal prison in Butner, N.C., but he is still fighting his 2011 conviction, according to a recent interview with Farkas with the Wall Street Journal.
Raymond Bowman, the former president of TBW, also pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to commit bank, wire and securities fraud, and of lying to federal agents, according to court documents.
Kissick and Kelly, both former Colonial employees, also pleaded guilty to related criminal charges, including conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud, according to court documents.
In her plea agreement, Kissick admitted that she created fictitious mortgage-backed securities from fraudulent loans, which were represented on Colonials financial statements as high-quality investments.
In 2007, Colonial executives, including Moore, negotiated change-in-control agreements, valued at more than $9.1 million collectively, to ensure the executives stayed on board if the bank changed hands. However, the FDIC refused to honor the agreements because Colonial’s fall was considered a failure, not a change in control, according to media reports and court documents.
Moore had been promised more than $3.4 million in her change-in-control agreement, according to a Sept. 9, 2007, article in the Triad Business Journal.
Before joining Colonial, Moore spent nine years with Coopers & Lybrand, the predecessor of PwC, according to a Nov. 10, 2011 Forbes article.
“Moore’s experience and connections helped her steer clear of any blame for the fraud and she did not go to jail,” the Forbes article said.
Sarah Moore is not related to Lloyd Moore, deputy administrator of the ACUA, who was appointed last month as interim director of the state agency, Ardis said.