Idaho resort founder sues Swiss bank for fraud
BOISE - Alfredo Miguel, founder and former board chairman of the failed Tamarack Resort in Idaho, and Tim Blixseth, founder and former manager and developer of the Yellowstone Club in Montana, have filed to intervene in a pending lawsuit against Credit Suisse, charging the Swiss bank with fraud, conspiracy and more, in a scheme they charge directly contributed to the financial failure of both resorts.
The existing lawsuit, originally filed in January of 2010 by a group of property owners from four failed luxury resorts, charged the second-largest bank in Switzerland with engaging in a “predatory” lending scheme designed to force all four resorts into foreclosure, and acquire the pricey properties for pennies on the dollar while raking in “enormous” fees. In addition to Tamarack and the Yellowstone Club, the 2010 federal lawsuit covers two other failed luxury resorts: Lake Las Vegas in Nevada, and Ginn Sur Mer resort in the Bahamas.
The filings from Miguel and Blixseth charge that the two resorts suffered “defaults and foreclosures caused directly by shoddy, deceitful, misleading and fraudulent appraisals deliberately inflated by appraisers and lenders resulting in catastrophe for lending institutions, innocent borrowers and other parties collaterally affected by defaulting loans secured by property such as vendors, contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, title insurance companies and purchasers of real estate.”
The scheme, according to the legal filings, involved a “new and exotic real estate loan product” that Credit Suisse developed in 2004, targeting owners of high-end real real estate resort developments with the pitch that they could enjoy all the future profits and equity from their developments, just as, at the time, homeowners were tapping into their fast-rising home equities through loans. There were differences, though: Little to no risk to Credit Suisse, potential huge profits for the bank when the loans failed, and the bigger the loans, the higher fees the bank made.
Plus, appraisal values for the properties were vastly inflated using a new methodology. As a result, the Yellowstone Club was appraised at $420 million in September of 2004, but in July of 2005, it was appraised at $1.165 billion. Tamarack was appraised at $284 million in December of 2005, but one month later Credit Suisse told Miguel it was worth $1.5 billion.
The Swiss bank ran the huge loans through its Cayman Islands branch, which the new filings charge “consisted of a lonely PO box and no office personnel whatsoever,” stating, “The Cayman Island Branch of CSFB was an outright sham and subterfuge.”
Steven Vames, vice president for corporate communications for the bank, said, “Credit Suisse rejects Mr. Blixseth’s and Mr. Miguel’s entirely meritless allegations and their attempt to latch onto an existing suit which has already seen many of the plaintiffs’ claims dismissed. For Mr. Blixseth in particular, this is simply the latest attempt to shift blame to others and away from his own conduct.”
The lawsuit’s racketeering claim under the federal RICO Act, or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, was dismissed in March as not applicable to the case. Other claims, however, including charges of fraud, conspiracy, tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty, were allowed to proceed.
The original lawsuit seeks $8 billion in actual damages and $16 billion in punitive damages, including $150 million each for the four communities impacted by the failed resort projects.
The new filings include an allegation that Credit Suisse and Highland Capital called Miguel to a meeting in Dallas in March of 2010, told him not to bring his lawyers, and leaned on him for $1.2 million saying that Highland Capital had a party who was “close to the FBI and was prepared to use ‘unorthodox methods’ to collect on the guaranty.”