Two lawsuits filed Monday in federal courts in Philadelphia and Utah presented wildly divergent versions of Advanta Bank Corp.'s demise during the financial crisis that rocked the U.S. economy starting in 2007.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. sued the defunct Advanta Corp.'s top two executives for $219 million in Philadelphia, alleging that Dennis J. Alter and William A. Rosoff destroyed the bank, which was Advanta's Utah-based credit-card lending arm, by jacking up interest rates on customer accounts in a misguided attempt to prop up earnings.
Alter and Rosoff countered with a suit in Salt Lake City blaming the FDIC, which closed Advanta Bank in March 2010, for the failure. The former Advanta executives said FDIC regulators approved the plan to save Advanta by raising interest rates on customers as the economy tanked to mitigate risk.
"But then - with Advanta committed beyond the point of no return - the FDIC, on orders from the highest levels of the agency in Washington, D.C., revoked its approval in a deliberate decision to put the bank out of business," the Utah suit said.
The FDIC, whose projected loss on the Advanta failure is $610 million, investigated the interest-rate increases, called "repricing," in 2009. Advanta settled the investigation and agreed to pay restitution of up to $21 million for allegedly failing to notify customers properly about increases in interest rates.
That settlement, Alter and Rosoff said in their Utah suit, released them from any violations involving repricing.
Monday's FDIC lawsuit is focused on those practices, detailing how interest-rate increases from January 2008 through May 2009 led to cancellation of 400,000 credit-card accounts. More than 40 percent of the remaining customers defaulted, the FDIC said.