As the financial system imploded in late 2008, two local companies sought help from the federal government.
S&K Menswear, which could no longer borrow enough money from its main lender, Wells Fargo, to stock its stores, met with Rep. Eric Cantor to try to find other lenders. He was unable to help. According to a former employee who traveled with the chief executive, S&K officials went to more than 40 banks trying to find a new line of credit. Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in early February and has finished much of the liquidation.
And in early October, LandAmerica, whose headquarters is only a mile or so from S&K, sent then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson a letter pleading for a loan to help the company pay customers of its 1031 exchange business. The company could not access investments called auction-rate securities that were frozen because the market for them dried up. That problem forced LandAmerica to file for bankruptcy in November.
That letter, which you can read in full here, has become public as part of LandAmerica’s bankruptcy case.
Wrote Ted Chandler: “If LandAmerica cannot immediately translate its auction rate securities into the cash necessary to fund such 1031 real estate transactions, hundreds of innocent businesses and individuals will be needlessly harmed, hundreds of scheduled real estate closings will not occur and there will be a further erosion of public confidence in local real estate deals that are critical to re-building the American economy. Moreover, the ultimate result of LandAmerica’s present inability to sell auction rate securities in its portfolio could be a disastrous chain reaction that would cause customers to cease doing business with it and in state regulated insurers.”
Chandler also wrote, “Although LandAmerica continues to seek financial liquidity alternatives in the marketplace, LandAmerica must conclude at this point that immediate federal assistance under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is the only practical means of meeting in good fait to its many customers … Consequently, LandAmerica respectfully requests tat the Department of the Treasury provide essential capital liquidity to our company by either direct purchasing or lending against the $290 million of federally-backed auction rate securities that are currently undermining our ability to keep operating.”
The Treasury apparently refused to lend the company money. Peter Kolbe, a government relations consultant who worked for LandAmerica, said he couldn’t comment because he is contractually obliged to LandAmerica.
Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected].