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Tuesday
Oct022012

Judge Denies TD Bank's Effort to Overturn $67 Million Rothstein Verdict; Appeal Likely

A Miami federal judge denied efforts by TD Bank to obtain a new trial following a $67 million verdict in favor of a victim of Scott Rothstein's $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.  United States District Court Judge Martha G. Cooke denied TD Bank's motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial, finding that the evidence "adequately supported the award," and noting that the bank was sufficiently able to pay the award considering its 2011 net worth of $28 billion.  TD Bank had previously indicated that it intended to appeal the verdict, and the next step would be an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia.

After Rothstein's scheme came to light, one of its victims, Coquina Investments, filed suit against TD Bank alleging that the bank aided and abetted Rothstein's scheme by ignoring multiple red flags related to Rothstein's operations and issuing bogus documents to Rothstein victims bolstering the scheme's legitimacy.  After a trial late last year, a federal jury took only four hours to deliver a $67 million verdict against TD Bank - including $35 million in punitive damages.  

Following the jury's verdict, Coquina's attorney uncovered evidence that TD Bank and its attorneys, high-powered law firm Greenberg Traurig, either altered or withheld key documents during trial that could have potentially led to a higher verdict.  Judge Cooke found the omissions "simply incredible" and imposed sanctions against TD Bank and Greenberg Traurig.  Coquina later sought $500,000 in attorneys' fees and costs it allegedly sustained as a result of the sanctionable conduct.  That motion remains outstanding.

Before the conduct warranting sanctions was discovered, TD Bank filed motions with the court seeking judgment in its favor or, in the alternative, a new trial.  TD Bank made numerous arguments in support, including that Coquina had failed to prove its damages, the verdict was unsupported by the evidence, and that some jury instructions were flawed.  In a 38-page order, Judge Cooke analyzed and dismissed each argument.  Finding that the jury was entitled to make its verdict based on the "reprehensible" conduct of several TD Bank employees, and that the punitive damages awarded served to punish different conduct and were not duplicative, Judge Cooke denied all of TD Bank's requested relief.

While the bank indicated in a previous settlement with another Rothstein victim that it sought to "put this matter behind us," comments made after the Coquina verdict suggested that an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit was likely.  

A copy of Judge Cooke's order is here.

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