A federal criminal trial for the former Wilmington Trust Corp., its ex-President Robert Harra and three other top officials, previously scheduled for January, has been postponed to October 2017, according to the office of Charles Oberly, U.S. Attorney for Delaware.
That means the Wilmington Trust defendants, among the few senior bankers to face charges from the 2008-09 financial crisis, will get their day in court, and face prison sentences if convicted, more than seven years after the bank's financial collapse -- assuming Oberly or career prosecutors working under a Trump-appointed successor get to court on schedule.
The last appointed Republican U.S. Attorney in Delaware, under President George H.W. Bush, was Colm Connolly, now at Morgan Lewis in Philadelphia.
Connolly's clients include Wilmington Trust's last CEO, Ted Cecala, the only top Wilmington Trust officer who's not been indicted by Oberly's office.
David Weiss, a Republican, served as acting U.S. attorney between Connolly and Oberly. He's now Oberly's top lieutenant in. If the Trump administration replaces Democratic U.S. Attorneys such as Oberly, it's possible Weiss will be heading the office again, at least on an acting basis, come October.
The government has charged Wilmington Trust bosses with hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate losses from regulators (including the TARP bailout fund) and investors (including federally-regulated retirement funds, active and retired bank employees, and members of the du Pont family) in a failed effort to keep the bank's true financial condition from becoming public.
When the losses did become public, Wilmington Trust stock predictably fell, and regulators, noting the shortage of capital, felt compelled to act, forcing the company's sale, at a price below even its depressed recent trading levels.
Government allegations depict a loose lending culture at Wilmington Trust, where developers were able to scam lenders whose work wasn't closely supervised by sales-focused senior managers.
Bank defenders blame the mortgage lending crisis and ensuing recession for the bank's losses; larger banks like the former First Union, National City and Washington Mutual were also forced out of business, though most of their senior bosses were able to retire comfortably or seek employment elsewhere.
Wilmington Trust under Cecala's predecessors built up the bank's retail and commercial lending business in Delaware, eastern Maryland, and suburban Philadelphia, and a national network of investment management and tax shelter offices.
When it added Wilmington Trust itself as a defendant last year, the government forced M&T Bank, which regulators had allowed to buy the remains of what had been Delaware's largest bank at a bargain price, to defend its vanished predecessor and face potentially expensive penalties.
Will Cecala or anyone else be named as a defendant before the trial? "The investigation is ongoing," says Kim Reeves, Oberly's spokeswoman.