Fired Mutual Bank Whistle Blower Claims Obama Side Lot Reason for Firing

Credit a blog of the New York Daily News with pointing me to a Cook County law suit for $4.2 million, plus punitive damages, against Mutual Bank.

At issue is an analysis by Kenneth Conner of an appraisal by Adams Appraisal Service which Mutual Bank employee Conner knew was in the file, but which disappeared.

Conner performed real estate review and analysis for seven years and documented appraised valuation excesses exceeding $60 million in his last 2½ years of work, the suit states.

In June of 2005 a loan was approved to Rita Rezko, now-convicted Tony Rezko’s wife, so Mrs. Rezko could purchase the lot next to the home Barack Obama was buying.

An appraisal said the lot was worth $625,000 and a loan was made for $500,000. Bank President Amrish Mahajan, along with other bank officers, approved the loan.

January 4, 2006, Rita Rezko entered into an agreement to sell the Obamas 10 feet of the lot. Whistle blower Conner was asked to perform an appraisal review of the Adams appraisal.

Conner concluded that the appraisal overvalued the lot by $125,000, that the lot was worth no more than $500,000.

MAI Howard Richter appraised the property at the time for $490,860. The suit points out that Richter’s appraisal and Conner’s conclusion of what the lot was worth were “substantially similar.”

Conner believes that the close relationship between the Obamas, the Rezkos and Mutual Bank’s CEO meant that his super-boss knew of the Richter appraisal.

Conner knew his analysis was in the property’s file, as was the Adams’ appraisal.

The suit reveals that the bank got a Grand Jury subpoena on October 19, 2006, asking for the file on the empty lot and other Rezko banking information.

Conner says his analysis of the property’s value was removed from the file before it was handed over to the Feds. He says that an appraisal check list dated June 15, 2005, signed by James P. Murphy was substituted for it.

Conner’s report was also excised from the file when the FDIC audited it, the suit says, being replaced with the “Murphy checklist.”

Conner did not notice the removal of his analysis until 2007.

On June 18, 2007, he sent this email to Murphy:

“I spent time trying to track down work of mine that should be a particular high profile loan file, though it is not—having been replace by a checklist.”

He sent a second email a month later.

In an October 15, 2007, communication to Human Resources Department representative Lana Schlabach, Conner referenced,

“Resentment over my mentioned discovery of the removal/replacement of an appraisal review that I conducted. That appraisal review contained substantial observations and suggestions. The transaction and parties were high profile in the media. I am under the impression that the FBI has since looked at the file…

“I remember conducting the appraisal review and I remember what I concluded. If the FBI were to ask me about such I would tell them the truth. I never rescinded or amended my findings. When I noticed that my appraisal review was missing, I felt an obligation to point that out, even if the mention was counterintuitive in effect.”

Eight days later Conner was fired, the reason given that Conner had frozen a trading account pledged as security by a third party on an unrelated Rezko $500,000 line of credit.

Conner says he “discerned the bank’s collateral was in jeopardy,” according to the legal papers.

Conner’s suit claims the following laws were broken:

  • False bank statement by bank officers
  • False statement willfully overvaluing property
  • Bank fraud
  • Witness retaliation
  • Willful violation of a lawful subpoena
  • FDIC regulations
  • Similar Illinois laws and state banking regulations

Conner claims his firing was of a retaliatory nature.

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