Monday, March 18, 2013

US Century Bank Deal Does Not Pass Smell Test

The Miami Herald published yesterday the latest in a series of puff pieces on the insider piggy bank, US Century Bank. "Miami may be a major metropolis, but in certain circles, all it takes to raise the capital to buy a $1 billion bank is one degree of separation." Well, it takes Eye On Miami to explain exactly how that one degree of separation works in this case, and none of it is explained for readers in the Herald article.

The bottom line, here, is the Herald is promoting a bank sale constructed around walking away from $50 million in US taxpayer money. The $50 million walked away through the bank created by lobbyists and the local representatives of the Growth Machine: Sergio Pino and Ramon Rasco. Pino built a bank to match his ambitions for US Century Homes, dreamt to be the local version of Lennar: the soup to nuts Miami-based homebuilder. Oh, I forgot. According to the Herald, $5 million is to be repaid by the new investors who -- one way or another -- comprise a syndicate of the Great Destroyers.

Irony scarcely covers the issue, on a weekend commemorating the Herald as its 1 Herald Plaza site was demolished, thanks to a bottomless pile of money from Asian gamblers. That's where the one degree of separation lies. You won't read it in the Herald.

Genting was only temporarily deterred from its outsized plan to turn Miami into the Las Vegas of Latin America. It will patiently chip away at resistance to gambling until it achieves its aims.

There is plenty of detail, how Genting spreads its money around. The trio involved in the planned US Century Bank takeover -- Rok, Tate, and Perez -- all washed tens of millions for their short term -- like half a year -- investment in the subordinated debt purchased on the property adjacent to the Herald site.

To achieve its grandiose plans, Genting needed the former Omni property and the company needed agents; politically influential insiders to advance its cause; a large enough footprint for its multi-billion investment in Miami gambling.

The Genting money came at the propitious time that Perez was negotiating his name (and contribution) to the Miami Art Museum. Viewing the whole enterprise, it seems a magician trick worthy of Houdini.

It is astonishing that Jorge Perez materialized whole and was not shut down by the banks during the housing bust or otherwise held to account for the condo mess he created on the banks of the Miami River.

There must be teams of bankers grinding their teeth reading how he now appears on the pages of Forbes and America's richest men. I'd like to know what they think of "one degree of separation".

To continue the theme; it is as though US Century Bank founders, Pino and Rasco, in ginning up the worst excesses of the housing boom -- spreading platted subdivisions into wetlands, environmentally sensitive lands, and spinning public policies into carefully crafted hairballs (like the HABDI fiasco, even earlier) -- simply dissolved from the memory bank of the Miami Herald. (To be fair, the Herald never would print those stories in the first place, giving rise to blogs like ours.)

Because of our $50 TARP investment in US Century, the public deserves to know exactly whose loans cratered on the balance sheet of US Century Bank. My guess is that hundreds of millions sits in undeveloped "agricultural" lands outside the Urban Development Boundary waiting for the miracle to come: the extension of sprawl through the agency of Miami Dade Expressway Authority and the expansion of State Road 836. What are the terms of those loans? Have the borrowers -- who may have been directors of US Century Bank -- repaid their mortgage and principal according to legal obligations?

If the federal government allows the takeover of US Century Bank, by Miami insiders, these facts will vanish the same way likely as US Century debt owed to US taxpayers: the largest unpaid TARP obligation in the state of Florida.


Anonymous said...

R. Allen Stanford must be sitting in prison, fuming: why didn't I think of that.

Anonymous said...

The reason the Herald won't write about US Century honestly is that the related law firms like Greenberg Traurig and Cesar Alvarez and Pedro Martin have all wormed their way into the Herald hierarchy. You forgot to say that they are all Republican. Kind of cute how Rasco raised money for Bill Nelson. Like Nelson has a clue.

Anonymous said...

Stanford was stealing billions with a wink and a nod from Jeb's banking regulators in Tallahassee. These guys are putz's in comparison.

Anonymous said...

The MDX expansion is one issue we should be fighting NOW not waiting. What is even more concerning is the Zapata ordinance from last week allowing him to set up a public works trust fund for Dist. 11 which is where this expansion would be. This is not coincidental by any means. There's one more politician at play who may be worse than Martinez though a little more palatable to viewers. This public works trust fund is a new slush fund, in my opinion, for county commissioners. We'll see what the BCC does with this but if I heard right the commissioner and his staff can solicit for donations in to this fund. This would certainly take the pressure off the very pro urban sprawl MDX Board plus their other issues commissioner Suarez addressed in his open letter. Miami Dade county will be under water either with the weight of it's debt or by climate change! The US Century deal made me sick on so many levels from the Perez art museum deal profiting from screwing every bank around to Ross investing in US Century while asking for more government dollars to the eternal bail out of these US Century clowns responsible for damages it will take two generations to fix, if it even can be at this point.

Anonymous said...

The rich should pay, not steal.

Anonymous said...

The public deserves to see these folks in jail. Let's not forget that during the S&L crisis, many bankers were put in prison.

Anonymous said...

What part of pay the US taxpayers back doesn't anyone get in this "deal" and assuming the bad debt is okay? Come on. How the Herald can consider these people worth rewarding with praise in what I would consider a group of people with too much money basically living off the public dole - which the US taxpayers.

Honorable & good people would make it a priority to make good on their debts, these people, none of the current or former board, nor the bail out purchaser will do it, nor intend to do it. None of the purchasers deserve praise, they deserve scorn and some of the most egregious former/current Board deserve jail.

The fed's should not approve nor reward bad behavior which is what this is doing.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't all the criminals involved in the raping of US Century Bank in jail? There should be indictments. Who much money was given to insiders?