The case of Lawrence Savings Bank provides an example of how ugly it can get between Stephen Gordon and the management of an old-line thrift.
Not content with recommending changes or offering shareholder proposals, Genesis Financial Partners is taking its case to the board of the Massachusetts thrift.
The Newport Beach, Calif.-based hedge fund is planning to nominate its principals, Mr. Gordon and Brandt W. Johnson, for board seats at the thrift's annual meeting on May 7.
The two men, former investment bankers at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, are the executive officers of the fund's general partner, Gen Fin Inc.
"We believe that Mr. Gordon's and Mr. Johnson's backgrounds in finance and in advising financial institutions could improve the board's ability to make decisions on an informed basis," Mr. Gordon wrote in a letter to Lawrence chairman Archibald D. Maclaren.
According to the letter, the fund's decision was based on a feeling that "numerous" phone conversations with Lawrence president and chief executive Paul A. Miller have been "unproductive" and on a conclusion that the thrift wouldn't voluntarily take any of its suggestions to beef up earnings.
Mr. Gordon noted in the letter that the thrift has hired attorneys to invalidate Genesis' nomination of directors on the grounds - which he termed "meritless" - that notice wasn't given in timely fashion as required by company bylaws.
And he accused the thrift's outside counsel of being more interested in legal fees than shareholder interests.
"We find it ironic and unacceptable, particularly in light of the bank's already anemic earnings, that shareholders' money is being spent by the bank to fight off a shareholder," Mr. Gordon wrote.
Mr. Miller dismissed Mr. Gordon's response as "his interpretation."
"That's an irresponsible statement," Mr. Miller said. "He's attacking the credibility of the attorneys that we've engaged and that's unprofessional."