A Michigan state court judge has reportedly postponed a trial in which former customers of Lotus Bancorp in Novi, Mich., had filed a lawsuit against the bank's executives for sending racist emails.
A group of Indian-American businessmen claim Lotus President Neal Searle and Chief Financial Officer Richard Bauer sent emails to each other in which they made racially insensitive remarks that were insulting to people of Indian descent, Crain's Detroit Business reported.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris postponed the trial, suggesting that parties meet with a retired judge in an attempt to reach a settlement, Crain's reported. Judge Morris had previously ruled that the executives could not claim a First Amendment right to make racially insensitive remarks about their customers.
The $94 million-asset Lotus was founded in 2007 to serve members of the Asian-American community in suburban Detroit. Most of its investors and directors are Indian.
The lawsuit includes comments the executives allegedly made in the emails. Bauer allegedly referred to Lotus" directors as "chimps" in one email. The lawsuit claims that, in another message, Bauer responded to an offer of free tickets to a concert by an Indian musician by saying, "Only interested if someone is going to detonate an incendiary device. If so, I will get tics (sic) for all of them."
The plaintiffs, who had obtained a $1.5 million loan from Lotus to buy a Travelodge motel in Jackson, Mich., are seeking class-action status for their lawsuit. The plaintiffs claim the executives' remarks were insulting and that they led to problems with their loan.
Elizabeth Thomson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not return calls seeking comment. Patrick McCarthy and Michael Turco, lawyers for Lotus and its executives, also did not respond to requests for comment.