Regions Bank misled a Mobile, Ala., sewer company about the riskiness of several swaps transactions and must pay $7.4 million in compensation, an arbitration panel has found.

The bank, a unit of Regions Financial (RF) in Birmingham, sold a series of complex interest rate swaps to Baldwin County Sewer and did not adequately communicate the financial risks associated with them, says Billy Bonner, a partner at the law firm of Cunningham Bounds who represents Baldwin. Baldwin used them in connection with variable interest rate bonds issued by the company and insured by Regions.

"When the market crashed in 2008," Baldwin's interest rate exposure on these transactions "nearly doubled,” Bonner says.

Baldwin was seeking the return of all sums paid for the three interest rate swaps from their inception, which brought the final award total to $7.4 million, according to the arbitration panel's written decision. Regions agreed to the ruling, which determined it was a case of "equitable fraud" as there was no finding of deliberate fraud or intent to deceive Baldwin, the written decision says.

But Bonner says that in addition to the arbitration award Baldwin will ultimately save another $2.5 million on fees it is no longer bound to pay Regions. The bank declined to confirm that assertion.

"We do not have a comment on the arbitration ruling," a Regions spokeswoman said.

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