July 22, 2018

LandAmerica

LandAmerica: Victims of Bad Marketing or Ponzi Schemers?

RG-1031.jpgEditor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adve and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
There’s nothing we appreciate more than a really juicy tale of crappy auction rate securities, fire sales ignored by regulators, and bankruptcy when the scam runs out, especially when the perps happen to be audited by a Big 4 firm you may have heard of (there are only 4, just throw a dart).
Excuse our bad grammar and run-on sentences, we just don’t know where to start with this.
More, after the jump


Once upon a time not that long ago when a tarp was just something you brought camping, LandAmerica was at the top of the 1031 exchange game. That entire story is a tad too long for today’s 140 character attention span so let’s fast-forward to the part where there are even entire forums dedicated to discussing why regulators missed LandAmerica. In short: LandAmerica exchangers are pissed off.
To get a hint at just how pissed off, take a peek at what the forum has to say:

Then LandAm files Bankruptcy proceedings on their 1031 subsidiary, saying: “…you 1031 clients of ours are ‘…going under the wheels of the Bankruptcy bus” because “we” made bad decisions in $290 million ARSs. Wow! a $300 million “wash.” A “Back-Door” merger without the “toxic” ARS funds. LandAm1031 clients get hosed!

Burn! Those are some wild accusations, is it fair to spit such venom at LandAmerica?
Well… um… yeah, actually. And LandAmerica has due diligence to blame Fidelity has due diligence to thank.
On November 24th, 2008 LandAmerica went into free-fall after Fidelity announced that it would be pulling out of the tentative deal (subject to final due diligence). Given the BBB mark of the beast by Fitch shortly thereafter, LandAmerica slumped off to bankruptcy court. Meanwhile, those who found themselves at the short end of LandAm’s 1031 exchange stick started getting letters from the IRS while their money was off in SunTrust accounts getting killed by illiquid auction rate securities without their knowledge. You’d think more people would be discussing something that involves millions of misappropriated investor dollars but who are we to judge?
As with most (alleged) Ponzi schemes, the “scheme” escapes detection until the money runs out. And when Fidelity backed out of the LandAmerica deal, LandAmerica had what can only be called a Madoff Moment.
Making this saga even better is, that for some completely bizarre reason that escapes us, the Richmond Fed has decided to hire LandAmerica’s former legal counsel Michelle Gluck to serve on their team as Chief Legal Officer (perhaps they are taking a cue from the Fed Board of Governors who hired an ex-Enron PR girl awhile back?). We truly love hate to wildly speculate here but this goes against logic, which we are generally used to seeing from Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and his bank. “With her broad range of leadership experience and extensive legal expertise, I know she’ll make great contributions to the Bank and to the Federal Reserve System,” he said of his new hire.
So what exactly is Richmond trying to do here? With credentials like that, I’m only slightly concerned now.
We’ll let you know if we ever figure that out. The SEC couldn’t be bothered to comment about it and reminded me why I don’t like picking up the phone.
We did however speak with one angry LandAmerica creditor who has a lot of questions and no answers and we’d be happy to update you with his comments as the investigation unravels. Oh wait, who said there was an investigation? Could someone kindly forward this to the SEC? Some of us have a day job.