A former Wilmington Trust employee describes the bank’s culture under Robert Harra as “arrogant.” But he has mixed emotions about last week’s sentencing of Harra and others for their roles in the bank’s demise.
Larry Taylor worked at the bank primarily as a department financial officer while Robert Harra was president. He is also the son of Bernard Taylor, president of the bank from 1979 to 1992.
Harra was among four ex-officials who received prison sentences last week. They were convicted last spring on fraud and conspiracy charges after misrepresenting the bank’s loan portfolio to federal regulators during the financial crisis.
“The culture of the bank at the senior level was one of, ‘we can do no wrong, and our clients don’t know anything, so we can do anything we want’,” said Taylor.
He says under Harra’s leadership, loan sales were pushed and risk rarely discussed. “Harra’s mantra was go forth and sell.”
Taylor says with last week’s prison sentences, justice has been served. “I knew a lot of people who lost their jobs.” But he has mixed feelings about Harra’s six-year sentence. Taylor describes him as a “genuinely nice person.”
“As a person I like him,” said Taylor. “He was always good to me. But on the other hand, you reap what you sow.”
Taylor left the bank in 2007, but maintains Harra and his co-defendants must have been aware of the fraud that happened in 2009 and 2010. “He was the president of the bank, and he was in charge of the retail and the commercial banking business. So the idea that these guys didn’t know what was going on— is ridiculous. I mean it’s absurd,” he said.
Taylor echos questions many have raised about why former CEO and Chairman Ted Cecala was not charged, when Harra and other convicted officers reported to him.
Harra and at least two of his co-defendants plan to appeal.
Wilmington Trust remains the only financial institution charged criminally in connection to the federal bailout program. The bank settled with the government last year.