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Treasury objects to bid for First Place Bank



Published: Tue, November 27, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Jamison Cocklin

jcocklin@vindy.com

WARREN

First Place Financial Corp. has hit a snag with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings after the U.S. Treasury Department filed an objection against Michigan-based Talmer Bancorp’s $45 million bid to buy its subsidiary First Place Bank.

Documents filed last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court by U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly show Treasury considers the bid too low and raised concerns the United States will be left holding $72.9 million in debt paid to the bank in 2009 under the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, passed in 2008 at the height of the financial meltdown to rescue failing banks.

“The United States objects to the sale process because it is occurring too quickly,” wrote Oberly in a document filed Nov. 20 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. “Under the current bid procedures, the debtor seeks to sell substantially all of its assets free and clear of all liens, claims and encumbrances within 39 days of the petition date.”

FPFC first filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 29, when it determined it no longer could reconcile the debt it incurred when its Michigan real-estate ventures faltered in 2008. In addition to its debts with the treasury, the holding company is $62 million in debt from a series of high-risk bonds it issued in 2003 and 2005.

The Treasury Department contends that FPFC has not maximized the value of the bank, which primarily holds $39 million in net operating loss, in addition to providing an unfair advantage to Talmer Bancorp by giving it protections that will “chill bidding.”

When it became evident FPFC would require bankruptcy protection, the company began shopping First Place through an investment bank, which eventually turned out offers from 44 organizations interested in all or some of the bank’s assets.

Talmer Bancorp was selected as the best solution to strengthen First Place’s capital base and help it meet the requirements of federal regulators.

In being selected as the “stalking-horse bidder,” however, Talmer was granted special protections that would make it impossible for a competing bidder to prevail unless it bids $51 million, according to the court documents.

The proceedings also are garnering national attention, with the revelation that W.L. Ross & Co., owned by the billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, is Talmer Bancorp’s leading investor, holding 24 percent of the company’s shares.

Ross made his fortune as an opportunity investor known for buying ailing steel companies when no one else would and guiding other businesses through the restructuring process.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ross said First Place was shopped extensively to other bidders and his offer was the highest, maintaining that “you can’t invent bids that don’t exist.”

Shellie Maitre, Talmer’s chief marketing officer, agreed, saying, “[First Place] was shopped extensively, and their investors were looking for parties interested in buying the bank — we had what they deemed to be the best bid.”

A Dec. 7 hearing originally was scheduled to approve the sale. Officials with First Place could not be reached to comment Monday. Maitre said those close to the bankruptcy process expected delays to occur.


Comments

1Photoman(1018 comments)posted 2 years ago

The current administration is taking us to a country which has only 4 major banks, all considered too big to fail. The smaller community banks which serve our local needs will cease to exist in a form familiar to us and lending practices designed to help local economies will no longer be in place.

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2paulparks(235 comments)posted 2 years ago

Thanks Obama, for once again - throwing our money away. TARP was only one of Obama's failures in his first term.

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3UNCOMMONSENSE(392 comments)posted 2 years ago

paulparks < TARP was signed into law by George Bush on October 3, 2008. Without TARP, many banks would have failed leaving the taxpayer on the hook for the full FDIC insurance amount. TARP actually strengthened the banks thereby reducing the cost to the taxpayer. You shouldn't let your hatred of President Obama get in the way of the facts.

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4redeye1(4702 comments)posted 2 years ago

Uncommonsense The way I see it either way the taxpayer is on the hook for the money. Wheter it was banks failing and we had to pay the full FDIC insurance or TARP money, they both will come out our pockets.

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5paulparks(235 comments)posted 2 years ago

uncommon,

On February 10, 2009, the newly confirmed Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner outlined his plan to use the remaining $300 billion or so in TARP funds. He intended to direct $50 billion towards foreclosure mitigation and use the rest to help fund private investors to buy toxic assets from banks.

My issue isn't with the original TARP idea, it is with the implimentation under Obama - especially in regards to toxic asset funding.

This coupled with his other financial blunders crippled this country.

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6ytownredux(117 comments)posted 2 years ago

So let me get this straight, The Government is trying to stop a shifty takeover that could lose repayment of the tarp used to SAVE your local bank, and it is still Obama's fault?? This is why the Republicans will never come back into power, too much hatred, too much blame game, and never even giving credit for something that they have been trying to do the entire time, get back bailout money to the taxpayers. It's really sad that they can't see the forest thru the trees.

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