The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against former United Commercial Bank executives accusing them of concealing loss from assets and loans from auditors that resulted in UCBH Holdings Inc., its public holding company, to understate its operating losses in 2008 by at least $65 million. As the bank’s loans continued to go down in value, the financial firm went on to fail and the California Department of Financial Institutions was forced to shut it down. This resulted in a $2.5 billion loss to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s insurance fund.
Per the SEC’s complaint, former chief operating officer Ebrahim Shabudi, chief executive officer Thomas Wu, and senior officer Thomas Yu were the ones that hid the bank’s losses. All three men are accused of delaying the proper recording of the loan losses and making misleading and false statements to independent auditors and investors and concealing from them that there had been the major losses on a number of large loans, property appraisals had gone down, property appraisals had been reduced, and loans were secured by worthless collateral.
Also accused of securities fraud by the SEC is former United Commercial Bank chief financial officer Craig On. The Commission said that he aided in the filing of false financial statements and misled outside auditors. To settle the SEC charges, On has agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty. He also agreed to an order suspending him from working before the SEC as an accountant for five years. He is permanently enjoined from future violations of specific recordkeeping, reporting, anti-fraud, and internal controls provisions of federal securities laws.
Criminal charges have also been filed against Shabudi and Wu. A grand jury indicted both men of conspiring to conceal loan losses, misleading regulators and investors, and lying to external auditors. Wu and Shabudi allegedly used accounting techniques and financial maneuvers, including concealing information that would have shown its decline, understating loan risks, and falsifying books, to hide the fact that that the bank was in trouble.
This is the first time such charges have been made against executives who worked at a bank that obtained government money—$298 million from TARP—to keep it running during the economic collapse.
Prior to its demise, United Commercial Bank, which was the first US bank to acquire a bank in China was considered a leader in the industry. It amassed assets of up to $13.5 billion in 2008. However, it also soon $67.7 million—way down from its $102.3 million profit in 2007. East West Bank acquired United Commercial Banks after regulators took it over in 2009.
Meantime, the FDIC is taking steps to bar 10 former United Commercial Bank officers from ever taking part in the banking industry.
Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)
Feds file charges against execs of failed United Commercial Bank, Mercury News, October 11, 2011
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