Petters Trustee Kelley Sues JPMorgan Chase

A new lawsuit claims that JPMorgan ignored red flags related to Tom Petters' fraud and the company raked in millions of dollars as a result of the sale of Polaroid to Petters' company.

Doug Kelley, receiver and trustee in the Tom Petters bankruptcy case, filed a lawsuit last week seeking millions of dollars from JPMorgan Chase & Company, which allegedly benefited from Petters' Ponzi scheme.

According to Kelley's complaint, New York-based JPMorgan; its affiliate, One Equity Partners, LLC; and a handful of individuals received immense profits as a result of the $426 million sale of Polaroid Holding Company to Petters Company, Inc.

The suit claims that the defendants together received more than $240 million from the sale of Polaroid, which took place in 2005. JPMorgan gained its ownership stake in Polaroid when it acquired One Equity in 2004.

The complaint also states that between 2001 and 2008, Petters deposited more than $83 million of Ponzi scheme proceeds into JPMorgan accounts. When federal agents raided Petters' offices in 2008, the accounts held about $25 million in cash and securities-which were liquidated by JPMorgan. Kelley's suit seeks the recovery of that $25 million, as well as the value of all fraudulent transfers and any other money received by the defendants, directly or indirectly, from Petters' scheme.

JPMorgan “uncovered or should have uncovered numerous red flags” informing it of Petters' fraud, according to the suit. But the “windfall” that the company received as a result of the Polaroid sale gave it incentive to ignore the warning signs.

The “red flags” defined in the suit include “evasive e-mails from the Petters team in response to due diligence inquiries”; a lack of tax returns and audited financial statements; and the unprofitability of Petters' businesses, among other indicators.

The suit claims that JPMorgan reaped additional profits by acting as a financier, syndicate manager, and financial advisor in the Polaroid sale. “Although its roles as lender and investment advisor generated as much as $40 million in fees and interest” for JPMorgan, “that figure is dwarfed by the profits” it earned by selling its ownership stake in Polaroid, the suit states.

The lawsuit alleges that, in addition to JPMorgan and One Equity, a handful of individuals raked in profits as a result of the sale. For example, Jacques Nasser-managing director of One Equity and former chairman of the Polaroid Holding Company board-allegedly received $12.8 million in what the suit describes as “Ponzi scheme proceeds.”

JPMorgan spokesman Tom Kelly on Monday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Petters was sentenced in April to 50 years in prison for orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.