MILA's Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy trustee in charge of MILA’s Chapter 11 case says there is evidence that MILA’s founder and CEO allegedly collected $32 million from MILA during the years before its demise, “improperly draining the Mountlake Terrace company’s assets as its fortune declined.”

From the Seattle Times:

“I think the executives at MILA knew by 2004 that this bubble was bursting and did their best to take out as much money as they could before it became obvious to everyone else,” says Brian Esler, who represents the bankruptcy trustee in the suit.

The suit claims Sapp, who owned about 90 percent of MILA, paid himself more than $10 million in dividends in 2004 and 2005 when the company was already “functionally insolvent,” meaning it had insufficient capital to continue normal operations and should have been preserving cash.

It also alleges he took $11.5 million in salary for each of those years, though “by March 2005, MILA was already delaying payments, even to important customers, to conserve cash.”

The trustee’s suit also claims that Sapp damaged MILA — and its creditors — in other ways:

He “surreptitiously seized” the mortgage software MILA developed and had another of his companies bill MILA for using it; charged MILA exorbitant amounts for his private yacht and business jets; and, in a “theft of corporate opportunity,” created separate companies to own a four-story office building and a parking lot that were leased to MILA, rather than having MILA buy the properties.

Sapp’s attorney, Jack Cullen, declined to discuss the allegations in detail but said: “We consider the claims nonsense. We don’t think they are founded in law or fact.”

Sapp did not return a call to his Hunts Point home.

Esler is asking the court to freeze $12 million in cash belonging to Sapp, to keep it available to creditors.

Bankruptcy Trustee Esler’s plan is to convince the court that MILA was technically insolvent for over two years before the company abrubtly closed it’s doors in April of 2007.  Esler cites improper accounting and a  twelve-fold increase in the number of loans MILA was required to repurchase from 2002 to 2004.

To protect creditors, the suit says, as early as 2005 “Sapp should have attempted to sell, liquidate or reorganize MILA at a time when it still had significant value, instead of continuing to manipulate and loot it for personal gain for another two years.”
The suit also takes a microscope to transactions among the various entities owned by Sapp. One example: The company that owned his 130-foot yacht billed MILA $395,374 over two years — although “MILA used that yacht only twice for asserted business reasons,” the suit says.

MILA’s creditor claims have ballooned up to 2 billion dollars.  By asking the court to freeze Layne’s personal assets, is the Bankruptcy Trustee is gathering evidence to try and make a case that the corporate veil was pierced? This means Layne might have co-mingled corporate assets with personal assets.  An example of that would be if personal expenses were paid for with corporate funds. This will be an interesting local case to follow.

Bankruptcy Trustee:
Miller Nash
Brian Esler
Lisa Peterson or Bruce Rubin

MILA Legal Counsel:
Jack Cullen
Foster Pepper
(206) 447-4689

Countrywide facing shareholder lawsuit

Directors and officers of Countrywide Financial will have to defend themselves against “shareholder accusations of insider trading and an overall failure to monitor lending practices that led to the company’s collapse” per the New York Times tonight.

Rejecting the arguments of Countrywide executives and directors that they were unaware of lax loan operations that led to ballooning defaults, Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer of Federal District Court in Los Angeles ruled Tuesday that she found confidential witness accounts in the shareholder complaint to be credible and that they suggested “a widespread company culture that encouraged employees to push mortgages through without regard to underwriting standards.