U.S. Senator Robert Menendez pushed the Federal Reserve to approve an acquisition of a failed Elizabeth bank run that would have protected the investments of State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) and Joseph Ginarte, a major campaign contributor, according to a Wall Street Journal report. First BankAmericano failed last July after the board declined to take action. Losses were estimated at $163 million. Click here to read Menenendez’s letter.
The CEO of the failed bank was Holly Bakke, who served as Commissioner of Banking and Insurance under Gov. James E. McGreevey. The attorney for the bank was Michael Horn, a former Republican Assemblyman who was state Banking Commissioner under Gov. Thomas Kean. Horn served on one of Gov. Christopher Christie’s transition teams.
Menendez, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, told the newspaper that helping the failed bank, which served Elizabeth’s Hispanic community, was the right thing to do. “If any New Jersey constituent—regardless if it is a family or a local community bank—comes to me seeking assistance with a legitimate federal matter, not only is it important to help, I was elected to help,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “Telling them ‘no’ would be abdicating my responsibility.”
Menendez is not up for re-election until 2012.