Mortgage lender sued for “absconding” with Elliman account

Chicago bank claims "surreptitious campaign" to steal brokerage’s lending agreement
By Rey Mashayekhi | June 22, 2015 05:00PM

A Chicago mortgage lender is suing two former employees – including the president of Douglas Elliman’s lending operations – and a rival bank for allegedly soliciting employees and clients and “absconding” with the Elliman account.

The Federal Savings Bank is accusing former employees Ace Watanasuparp and Ronald Riemer of snagging the bank’s marketing agreement with Elliman and diverting the business to Rhode Island-based Citizens Financial Group.

Watanasuparp – who currently serves as president of Elliman’s lending division, according to the brokerage’s website – previously worked as head of the Federal Savings Bank’s DE Capital division, which oversaw a residential mortgage marketing agreement the bank struck with Elliman last year.

The partnership replaced Elliman’s previous agreement with Wells Fargo and aimed to originate between $3 billion and $5 billion in mortgages annually.

But the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last month, claims that after Watanasuparp grew “unhappy with his agreed upon compensation” with the bank, he “waged a surreptitious campaign” against his employer – going after the mortgage lender’s agreement with Elliman and “setting Citizens up as [the Federal Savings Bank’s] replacement in the marketplace.”

Elliman gave notice last December that it was exercising its option to terminate its agreement with the Federal Savings Bank, and the suit claims Watanasuparp “was actively giving presentations” with Lorber to new potential bank partners by February.

Elliman subsequently entered into a marketing agreement with Citizens, who acquired “substantially all of DE Capital’s loan officers” after they resigned en masse on March 31, according to the suit.

Watanasuparp and Riemer both declined to comment to The Real Deal, as did Javier Ubarri, president of the Federal Savings Bank and representatives for Citizens.

Elliman chair Howard Lorber told TRD he is aware of the lawsuit and confirmed that the firm is now partnered with Citizens.

Lorber also stressed that Watanasuparp is “not a Douglas Elliman employee,” and is affiliated with the brokerage “the same way he was before,” as head of an external lending operation.

Riemer was among the Federal Savings Bank loan officers who resigned to join Citizens, and is now listed as a loan officer for Elliman Properties Such As 980 Madison Avenue. The suit accuses Riemer of having “diverted loans to Citizens while employed” with the Federal Savings Bank and claims he “continues to solicit” the Chicago bank’s clients.

Citizens is also named as a defendant, having allegedly “acted with full knowledge” of the two men’s fiduciary duties to their employer and capitalized “by acquiring its first New York residential loan mortgage presence.”

The Federal Savings Bank suit seeks not only to bar Citizens from entering its marketing agreement with Elliman, but is also asking financial damages and an order for Watanasuparp “to disgorge all of the compensation” he received from the Federal Savings ban while in breach of his “duty of loyalty” to the bank.