Casden Brothers Back in Court In Round Two of Family Feud

Apartment baron Alan Casden has had a legally intense few months. He's settled a lawsuit with a group of former investors, sued his former lawyers at the now-defunct Battle Fowler firm and had his offices searched by the Los Angeles city ethics commission over campaign donations by his employees.

Now he's back in the courtroom for perhaps the oddest legal skirmish on his docket. For the past month, Casden has been locked in a second trial over the four year-old civil suit filed by his older brother Henry, the former president of Casden Properties LLC.

The trial, which is expected to go to the jury this week, has landed back in L.A. Superior Court three years after the first go-round. Henry originally sued Casden to recover part of his severance and at least $225,000 in unpaid dividends from his stake in a Casden-controlled limited partnership after he left Casden Properties following years of alleged "unwarranted personal abuse." The breaking point, the elder Casden claimed, came when Alan allegedly laid into Henry's son with a "torrent" of yet more abuse.

That jury ruled in favor of Alan Casden, who also won a countersuit against Henry and was awarded $1.6 million in attorneys' fees, plus return of his brother's interest in the partnership. But a state appellate court overturned the verdict two years later, concluding that the jury was wrongly instructed on how to decide the case.

In the second trial, the jury will have to re-hear Henry Casden's original claims plus a new one: that Alan owes him $4 million in unpaid bonuses plus interest that he earned during 11 years as Alan's right-hand man.

In his own countersuit, Alan Casden accuses Henry of defrauding him by signing a three-year employment agreement without disclosing that he had just been diagnosed with diabetes.

"We deny all the charges and we'll vigorously defend against them," said Alan Casden's attorney, Tom Nolan. Calls to Henry's attorney, Hillel Chodos, were not returned.

RiShawn Biddle

Insider Deal?

Another candidate has emerged as a contender to snap up Pacific Union Bank, the third-largest Korean-American Bank in Los Angeles, which could be sold by year-end.

David Warner, the bank's interim chief executive, is exploring a management-led buyout of the bank, according to sources familiar with the situation.

A sale of the bank has been expected since August, when a Dallas-based private equity firm, Lone Star Funds, acquired a 51 percent stake in Korea Exchange Bank of Seoul.

Korea Exchange owns 62 percent of Pacific Union, and Lone Star would have to reclassify itself as a bank holding company if it retained ownership something analysts say is unlikely to happen.

Warner, who did not return calls, was deputy president and chief financial officer of Seoul Bank, in Korea. He also has served as a director and advisor of the Korea Development Bank and as a manager at First National Bank of Chicago. He joined Pacific Union as an independent director in May 2002.

With $1 billion in assets and 12 branches, Pacific Union is one of the largest Korean-American banks to come on the market in years. It ranks behind Hanmi Financial, with $1.7 billion in assets, and Nara Bancorp, with more than $1 billion.

Kate Berry



High Defaults

A Hattiesburg, Miss. branch of Countrywide Financial Corp., the Calabasas-based mortgage lender, has lost its ability to originate mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration insurance program because of high default and claims rates.

The Countrywide branch was among several lenders to have their FHA-insured lending agreements terminated on Sept. 15 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Poor performance of loans originated at the branch triggered the termination.

When a portfolio is performing poorly, HUD will analyze it to determine whether location or the type of loans is a cause. It can end a lender's participation in the program if the lender has a default and claim rate for loans endorsed in the past two years that exceeds that national rate.

Last year, HUD reduced the so-called "termination threshold" that a lender's default/claim rate had to exceed in order to trigger a termination, to 200 percent of the local HUD field office average from 300 percent.

A branch that has been terminated cannot originate FHA-insured loans in that jurisdiction for six months.

Calls seeking comment from Countrywide were not returned.

Kate Berry

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