It has been a long time coming, but Advanta Corp.'s bankruptcy estate in December made its final payments to retail note holders, paying off 100 percent of the $140.6 million Advanta owed them when it went out of business in 2009.
Patience paid off for investors who were able to resist offers from hedge funds several years ago of 65 cents on the dollar.
"After all the letters we got offering to buy back our account, I'll bet quite a few people fell for it," said Suzi Loughery, a retired English teacher and longtime Advanta investor, "sadly, because many of them were original Teachers Service Organization members and probably needed the money."
Loughery referred to Advanta's roots in Teachers Service Organization Inc., a family-run credit union for teachers founded in 1951 by Jack Alter, father of Dennis Alter, who led the company from 1971 until its demise in 2009.
Advanta, whose biggest business was credit-card lending to small-business owners, spiraled out of control in 2008 and 2009, as the Montgomery County firm jacked up interest rates on customers to as much as 36 percent, then froze customer accounts as defaults soared.
Bankruptcy followed in November 2009, with Alter and other executives saying the filing provided the best shot at repaying 3,850 retail note holders, many of them retirees attracted to the uninsured note by interest rates that were higher than those available on certificates of deposit.
"They worked hard to implement concrete strategies in the bankruptcy that were specifically designed to ensure a full recovery to the retail note holders on their $140 million in claims," said Michael Kichline of Dechert L.L.P., who represented Alter in a cascade of lawsuits.
In March 2010, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Advanta's banking subsidiary, which was based in Utah, predicting that the closure would cost the deposit-insurance fund $600 million.
Meanwhile, lawsuits against Alter and other officers and directors accumulated from every possible constituency - employees who were invested in company stock, note holders, and public investors in the company's stock.
Separate lawsuits involving those three groups have been settled in the last year or so for a total of $21.3 million.
The FDIC sued Alter and Advanta's vice chairman, William A. Rosoff, for $219 million in June 2013 in federal court in Philadelphia, alleging that the executives destroyed the Advanta Bank by jacking up interest rates on customer accounts in a misguided attempt to prop up earnings.
The same day, Alter and Rosoff filed a suit in Utah blaming the FDIC for the bank's failure and seeking hundreds of millions in monetary relief.
The end of that fight appears to be near.
In the fall, the executives and the FDIC reached a settlement that was being documented and should be final "in the relatively near future," Kichline said Wednesday.
The money for the final $23.7 million payment to note holders came from the sale of $27.6 million worth of unspecified assets, according to a liquidation document.
Institutional investors that are owed $96.5 million for subordinated notes have yet to receive a dime.