Local lawyers P.K. Bramlett and Robert Bramlett and peers from New York's Rosen Law Firm on Friday filed a putative class action against Tennessee Commerce Bancorp and four current or former top executives — Art Helf, Mike Sapp, Lamar Cox and Frank Perez. On behalf of lead plaintiff Carolyn Lynn, the attorneys say, among other things, that Tennessee Commerce's execs "knowingly or recklessly" made false statements about the bank's financial health and the state of its internal controls starting with their 2008 annual report.
"During the Class Period, defendants engaged in a scheme to deceive the market and a course of conduct that artificially inflated TNCC's share price and operated as a fraud or deceit on purchasers of TNCC shares by misrepresenting the Company's financial condition and business prospects," the complaint says. "The Individual Defendants' false and misleading statements had the intended effect and caused TNCC stock to trade at artificially inflated levels throughout the Class Period."
Download the suit by clicking here. Its filing is not altogether unexpected, but the big question is how — if they win the day — shareholders will be compensated. There's not much for the Tennessee Commerce holding company to scrounge up: Its shares (Ticker: TNCC) are actually still being traded but are worth a total of $2,445.
When Republic Bank & Trust executives in January struck a deal to buy the remnants of the failed Tennessee Commerce Bank, they talked about its potential as a growth platform in the Middle Tennessee area. But since then, they've unloaded or run off much of what they acquired: In the first four months under Republic ownership, Tennessee Commerce's loan book shrank from $99 million to $52 million. That number has been whittled down even more since, coming in at $46 million on Sept. 30, less than half the amount Republic bought in January.