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.
With shares of their company cut in half in the past month, three Tennessee Commerce leaders have this week put some of their cash dollar-averaging their holdings. CEO Mike Sapp has snapped up 15,000 shares, COO Lamar Cox has boosted his stake in the company by almost 20 percent and former CEO Art Helf has added almost 9,000 shares to his holdings. Tennessee Commerce shares (Ticker: TNCC) are down another 2 percent in today's red-tinted market action.