The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is seeking to recover $48 million from officers and directors of a Florida bank that collapsed in 2010 following heavy defaults on commercial real estate loans.

In a suit filed April 25 in a Florida district court, the FDIC alleges that the former executives and directors of Peninsula Bank in Englewood were lax in their underwriting of high-risk CRE loans between 2005 and 2009.

Peninsula failed in June 2010 with $644 million in assets and was sold to Premier American Bank in Miami. At the time of the failure more than 40% of the bank's loans were at least 90 days past due, according to FDIC data. The failure cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $195 million.

The defendants are nine former executives and directors of Peninsula, including its former chairman and chief executive, Simon Portnoy, and its president and executive vice president of commercial real estate lending, Richard Solano, along with the estate of a deceased former director.

The news of the suit was first reported Thursday by the South Florida Business Journal.

The FDIC's complaint alleges that the defendants "blindly approved" high-risk CRE loans, including "multi-million dollar loans for which the primary source of revenue was land value appreciation," and allowed the bank to become "a target of land speculators throughout Florida," the agency says. The defendants also ignored warnings from its independent consultants about the loans, according to the complaint.

Portnoy led a group of investors that bought Peninsula in 1995. The bank, which formerly operated as a traditional community bank, began pursuing CRE loan growth more aggressively in 2003, the complaint said. Its loan portfolio grew by 126% between 2003 and 2006, with CRE loans accounting for much of the growth.

The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

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