Eyeonmiami, the blog, documented the hijacking of local government during the early 2000's by insiders who comprised the founders and board of US Century; Sergio Pino and Ramon Rasco. The same forces that planned the transformation of the Homstead Air Force Base into a major commercial airport through a no-bid 99 year lease in the mid 1990's materialized, in the early 2000's to proliferate zero lot line housing and platted subdivisions into Miami suburbs.
Directors like Rodney Barreto, a top Jeb! Bush consigliere, agitated for widening Krome Avenue while amassing large land holdings outside the Urban Development Boundary. It was a near perfect and completely legal scheme: manipulating zoning to arbitrage the value of farmland and open space into its conversion value as sprawl.
The media dared not acknowledge much less criticize the formula because its own revenues and profits, benefiting top executives, were tied to what even then looked like, walked like, and talked like a Ponzi scheme of gargantuan proportions.
US Century Bank provided not just the link between politically connected home builders and the local elected officials who did their bidding from the dais of the county commission, like former county commissioner and ring leader Natacha Seijas, they also provided the financing under the lazy eye of regulatory agencies.
The housing boom and subsequent crash caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. On a broad scale, the Great Recession that followed -- if it can be called that -- was not a blameless exercise. The same way at the national level none have been held to account, at the local level the principal actors have gone unmentioned from the scene. The general lassitude of the South Florida economy traces directly to the shattered fortunes of consumers persuaded to invest in mortgages they could not reasonably afford, through the promotion and advocacy of homebuilders and their bankers -- like US Century -- and the politicians who made their developments possible through zoning decisions.
Eventually US Century Bank received the largest TARP federal taxpayer bailout in Florida; even this fact was lightly reported by the mainstream press. Yet, because of its rotten loan portfolio (according to Bauer Financial, a ratings agency, US Century Bank had a ratio of insider loans that dwarfed similarly sized banks in the United States) it also ranked as the most undercapitalized bank in the United States (South Florida Daily Business Journal).
If one were to overlay on a map of Miami-Dade County, those rotten mortgages from US Century Bank, it is our belief the map would provide an outline of the pattern of suburban sprawl that has been so destructive of quality of life and sound decision-making for taxpayer investments by elected officials who voters keep returning to office, mostly because voters are uninformed about the insider forces that shape our communities.
For these reasons, the collapse of US Century Bank -- yet to be shuttered by regulators or, through lawsuits, fully disclosed -- is the biggest business story of 2012 in Miami.