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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Met Mortgage creditors get 2 more cents on the dollar

Some third-round payments will be as little as $10

More checks are in the mail for creditors of bankrupt Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co.

This third round of partial payouts splits about $10.4 million among 15,500 people who held unsecured bonds in the once-prominent Spokane company and its Idaho affiliate, Summit Securities Inc.

Metropolitan trustee Maggie Lyons said a series of crippling developments left the trust able to make payouts equivalent only to about 2 cents on each dollar invested.

Notably, Metropolitan has been unable to sell numerous pieces of commercial real estate. Most were complicated – and sometimes risky – parcels and projects that were difficult to sell even when bank loans were relatively easy to secure.

Now, in the aftermath of the commercial lending collapse that froze Wall Street and helped sink the national economy, Lyons said the properties held by Metropolitan are near-impossible to sell without taking unacceptable losses.

P.J. Grabicki, an attorney who represents a committee of creditors, concurred.

“Would we like to get this everything sewn up? Sure,” he said, “but we’re not going to be reckless” and take big losses.

“Doing the right thing for people is going to require us to persevere,” he said.

Lyons also outlined the failure this fall to win a multimillion-dollar arbitration claim against Ernst & Young, a former auditor of Metropolitan embroiled in the accounting scandal that sped the crash of the $2.3 billion financial conglomerate six years ago.

“This result was a terrible disappointment,” Lyons said.

Some creditors may wonder “why bother?” when they get their small checks, some totaling less than $10, Lyons said. During tough financial times, she added, a little bit is better than nothing.

About 5,200 people will soon receive checks of more than $500.

It will likely be the last payout for creditors for some time.

Though Lyons faces a deadline in 14 months to have everything sold and distributed and avoid a forced auction, she is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams for an extension to 2015.

“This is in hopes the economy improves and we can sell the real estate,” she said.

Each distribution costs the Metropolitan trust about $25,000 in service and mail fees.

With this third payout, Lyons said, the bondholders of Metropolitan and Summit together have recouped about $102 million of the $470 million they had invested.

Lyons predicted these bondholders will someday recover about 33 cents on the dollar in the biggest bankruptcy in Spokane history.

Investors who held another $131 million in preferred stocks received nothing out of the bankruptcy.