Federal District Court Protects Law Firm Advice to Bank Directors Sought by FDIC as Receiver


On November 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that the FDIC, as receiver for a failed bank, is not entitled to memoranda prepared by a law firm in connection with the firm’s representation of two directors of the failed bank. FDIC v. Belongia Shapiro & Franklin, LLP, No. 12-2889, 2012 WL 5877559 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 19, 2012). The FDIC petitioned the court to enforce an administrative subpoena seeking legal opinions the firm provided to the bank in which the firm counseled the bank to pay the legal fees of bank personnel in three lawsuits. The court held that even though the FDIC stands in the shoes of the bank and generally holds any privilege the firm may assert, the firm was not required to turn over its legal advice provided to two of the bank’s directors who faced an administrative enforcement action by the FDIC. The court reasoned that because the firm was providing advice to the directors and not to the bank, the FDIC does not hold the attorney-client privilege. Further, the court explained that even though the firm provided advice to the bank before it represented the individual directors, such representation does not establish a joint-client or common interest exception to the privilege. Moreover, the bank’s payment of the firm’s fees does not entitle the bank to be privy to the firm’s communications with the directors. The court did require the firm to produce materials regarding two other matters in which the firm provided advice to the bank.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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