The chairman of a group seeking to form a bank in Washington is disputing claims made by a former fellow organizer.
Tekalign Gedamu, who is set to serve as chairman of Marathon International Bank, said that Zekarais Tamrat — who had been slated to be the bank's president — was dismissed from the de novo effort on June 30 after a short-term contract expired.
Gedamu asserts that Tamrat is spreading false information about him and other directors following a payment dispute. Gedamu claims Tamrat threatened to “tarnish our name with regulators and shareholders” after organizers refused to give him a lump-sum payment after his dismissal.
“We are now retaining a lawyer to handle this case,” Gedamu said on Thursday. “I think he is going to be in big trouble.”
Gedamu’s response comes after Tamrat said in a LinkedIn post Monday the he left after a falling out with the proposed bank’s board. The post, directed at Marathon’s potential investors, claimed that Gedamu and other directors were making decisions that in the long run would be harmful.
Organizers are looking to launch a bank that would largely focus on the Ethiopian-American community around the nation's capital.
Tamrat, a former banker with PNC Financial and Bank of America, claimed in his post that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had sent the group’s application back twice on the grounds that it was “significantly incomplete,” adding that the FDIC had “numerously communicated to us that the current board members are not fit to serve.”
Tamrat also urged investors to oust the proposed bank’s directors and select new board members with banking experience.
"My motive is not to stop the bank from opening," Tamrat said on Friday when informed of Gedamu's response. "I am trying to tell people what is going on."
An FDIC spokeswoman has declined to comment on the matter. The agency seldom discusses open applications.
Organizers filed an application with the FDIC in mid-January. They plan on raising $22 million to $25 million in initial capital.
Gregory Garrett, who previously served as president and CEO of Platinum Bank in Lubbock, Texas, is expected to become the proposed bank’s CEO. Several prominent Ethiopian-Americans agreed to serve on Marathon’s board, including Gedamu, a retired economist and former managing director of the Development Bank of Ethiopia.