SunTrust sues CRE broker for LOC balance

Customer refutes bank's push for permanent financing

Loyalty to one's banker — and the good lending relationship derived from such — would seem like a good thing in these less-than-stellar economic times. But don’t tell that to Joy Lamberson-McNaughten, a local commercial real estate broker whose loyalty has won her little in recent days.

On Feb. 22, SunTrust Bank filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Nashville against Broker Headquarters Group Inc. and Lamberson-McNaughten, its sole principal and owner, for nearly $200,000. Broker Headquarters is a commercial real estate leasing and sales concern located at 1994 Gallatin Road in Madison.

On Dec. 24, 2007, Lamberson-McNaughten executed a $250,000 commercial note which in effect was a line of credit allowing her access to funds as needed. She would then incrementally repay the money, thus making the note a form of temporary financing. Simultaneously, Broker Headquarters executed an unconditional guaranty backing the note.

Lamberson-McNaughten said she never missed a payment and although she had access to $250,000, at the time SunTrust filed its complaint, the balance was a shade more than $145,000. However, given the “demand” nature of the loan, SunTrust had the legal authority to require immediate payment, which it has exercised. Demand letters were sent to Lamberson-McNaughten and Broker Headquarters in January of 2010 and October of last year. McNaughten and the company have submitted no payments since then.

SunTrust wants its money back, obviously, but the bank also wants attorney fees and court costs incurred as a result of this collection effort. Attorney fees should approximate $22,000, or 15 percent of the outstanding indebtedness at the time a judgment is rendered, according to the complaint.

Lamberson-McNaughten told she had been a customer of Regions Bank “forever,” but hopped to SunTrust with her personal and business accounts when her banker moved there. Since that time, the banker has left SunTrust for another bank.

“I just can’t believe they’re going after me now as I’ve never been late and often pay three times more than the minimum due,” Lamberson-McNaughten said.

Lamberson-McNaughten thinks the bank is simply after more money. She said the line of credit is “locked in” at prime and the bank had only recently offered her permanent financing at a 7.5 percent interest rate, a move she said not in her best interest.

“I have no reason to move to a rate like that,” she said. “They’re just trying to get more interest out of me.”

SunTrust is represented by attorney Allison A. Wiemer of the Stites & Harbison law firm in Nashville. Wiemer was not available immediately for comment late Thursday.

Lamberson-McNaughten said she had just become aware of this lawsuit and has not yet selected legal representation.