Independence Drops Suit Against Directors
SEC Filings Prompt Bank's Action
By Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page E04
Independence Federal Savings Bank yesterday dropped a lawsuit accusing two of its board members of working against the interests of the bank's shareholders.
The historically black D.C. thrift has been locked in a battle with its largest shareholder, D.C. real estate developer Morton A. Bender, and two board members affiliated with him, Nelson Deckelbaum and Elliott S. Hall.
Hall, a partner in the Washington office of law firm Dykema Gossett, and Deckelbaum, a senior partner in the Bethesda law firm Deckelbaum, Ogens & Raftery, last year gave Bender the right to report their shares along with his on Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Bender is opposed to the financially troubled Independence Federal's proposal to sell itself to New York's Carver Federal Savings Bank, the country's largest black-owned thrift. The proposed sale was announced in March.
Two months ago, Bender disclosed plans to vote his 326,000 shares against the merger.
In a May 6 lawsuit, Independence Federal alleged that Bender was trying to undermine the sale to Carver to acquire Independence cheaply. It also accused Deckelbaum and Hall of siding with Bender, after voting for the bank's merger along with the rest of Independence Federal's board.
On May 24, Hall and Deckelbaum said in SEC filings that they planned to vote their shares for the merger, despite being affiliated with Bender. As a result, the thrift dropped its lawsuit against the two directors, according to Independence Federal's lawyer James H. Schropp.
Bender's lawyer, Dale A. Cooter, said Hall and Deckelbaum never had an agreement with Bender to derail the merger. "There was never any evidence to support that claim," Cooter said. "The claim against Mr. Bender is equally baseless, and Mr. Bender will achieve the same result."
Thomas L. Batties, interim president of Independence Federal, said the bank's suit accusing Bender of trying to disrupt its contract with Carver still stands.
Independence Federal has not set a date for shareholders to vote on the proposed takeover. The bank has said it hopes to complete the sale by the fourth quarter of this year.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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