U.S. Department of Labor Commissioner Hilda Solis has sued Tennessee Commerce Bancorp to force the company to reinstate the CFO it fired two years ago.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wildasin, says Tennessee Commerce has refused to comply with an Occupational Health and Safety Administration ruling that it reinstate George Fort to his former job. Fort was fired after raising a number of internal control and compliance issues related to the Sarbanes Oxley Act.
Federal officials two months ago told Tennessee Commerce it needed to pay Fort more than $1 million in back wages, interest and other fees and reinstate him to his old post.
In an e-mail, Fort said he looks forward to "resuming my position at TNCC and working with my friends there to help the bank regain its strong financial position."
Executives at Tennessee Commerce said in a statement that they will oppose the Labor Department's move and maintain they acted properly in firing Fort.
"The company maintains that the initial ruling by the DOL was preliminary and did not provide Tennessee Commerce a full and fair opportunity to present its defense," the statement said. "Therefore, reinstating Mr. Fort based on a preliminary ruling would be inappropriate. His reinstatement also could be highly damaging to the company."
Shares of Tennessee Commerce (Ticker: TNCC) are up about 2.5 percent this morning and more than 110 percent year to date. However, they have lost half their value since Fort's May 2008 dismissal, a little more than the 40 percent drop in the Dow Jones U.S. Banks Index over that time.