Would-be president of D.C. de novo quits after board dispute

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A veteran banker who was expected to help lead Marathon International Bank, a proposed de novo in the nation’s capital, has quit.

Zekarias Tamrat, who was set to become the bank's president, said in a LinkedIn post Monday the he left after a falling out with Tekalign Gedamu, the proposed chairman. The post, directed at the de novo’s potential investors, claimed that Gedamu and other directors have been making decisions that would ultimately harm the bank if it ever opened.

Organizers have been looking to launch a bank that would largely focus on the Ethiopian-American community around Washington.

“The current board members lack professional discipline and a shortage of making the right decision for the investors they promised to serve,” Tamrat said. The proposed directors are “making reckless decisions, rushing to open a bank and to earn recognition rather than the success of the bank.”

Tamrat said in an interview Thursday that he believes Marathon can be a viable bank serving the needs of Ethiopian-Americans, but only if its board is reconstituted. Tamrat said he would be open to rejoining the de novo if that happens.

Tamrat, a former banker with PNC Financial Services Group and Bank of America, said in his letter that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had sent the group’s application back twice because it was “significantly incomplete,” adding that the agency has “numerously communicated to us that the current board members are not fit to serve.”

Organizers did not include all of Marathon's policies and procedures in their initial application, Tamrat said in the interview. The second time, the agency expressed concern that several directors lived in different states and would be unable to come in and run the bank.

"The FDIC is not the problem," Tamrat said. "They are really helping us by asking us to correct our mistakes."

To that end, Tamrat is urging investors to oust the proposed bank’s directors and select new board members with banking experience.

Gedamu was not immediately available for comment. Steven Lanter, a lawyer at Luse Gorman who is handling the application, declined to comment.

An FDIC spokeswoman declined to comment.

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, was identified in the application as 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.

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Community banking De novo institutions Capital Corporate governance FDIC Washington DC