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He fought the SEC and won

Banker Alan Levan’s determination to fight the Securities and Exchange Commission paid off on Monday when a federal jury rejected all of the remaining civil fraud claims against him.

The case against the former leader of BankAtlantic ends one of the longest running legal sagas regarding the Great Recession in South Florida, which saw numerous banks fail and get taken over by regulators.

Levan, now the chairman and CEO of BBX Capital, had previously faced a 2014 trial in which jurors found BankAtlantic had not filed false statements with the SEC. On appeal, Levan also overturned a ruling that barred him from serving as a director or executive of a publicly traded company for two years.

Levan was previously the chairman and CEO of BankAtlantic Bancorp and the SEC attacked him over three sentences during an 80-minute earnings conference call in July 2007, saying they were false and violated securities law.

“I am pleased this regrettable nine-year ordeal is finally over and has ended in complete exoneration,” Levan said in a statement on Monday. “This frivolous action by the SEC was clearly motivated either by incompetence or by malicious self interest so the agency could say it did something to somebody other than watch the banking system collapse under its nose. I am ready to move on and build on the considerable success we have enjoyed at BBX Capital, which has prospered despite the unfair and unwarranted burden imposed on us by this SEC witch hunt.”

Much of BankAtlantic’s assets ended up being acquired by BB&T in 2012—the bank never failed—but many of its distressed assets ended up in the hands of BBX, which has prospered by maximizing the assets’ value during the economic recovery. The class A shares of BBX (traded under the symbol BBXT) traded at 11 cents back in 2009, but closed at $7.23, up 23 cents on Monday.

The case was a major victory for prominent Miami attorney Eugene Stearns of Stearns Weaver Miller, who blasted the SEC in a press release: “Not only did Alan Levan do nothing wrong, his behavior during one of the darkest periods in U.S. banking history was impeccable. The bank never made toxic mortgage loans and didn’t take a penny of federal bailout money. If every bank in the country had engaged in similar conservative practices, we might have completely avoided the financial crisis. The relentless pursuit of a meritless case demonstrates just how far off the rails the SEC has gone to find scapegoats for its considerable regulatory failures.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.