Washington, Aug 22: A Michigan judge ruled in favour of the customers of Lotus Bank , who filed an unusual lawsuit alleging discrimination by the bank. The bank is set up by members of the local Indian and east Asian business community.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris on Wednesday ruled that while the case against Novi-based Lotus Bancorp Inc. and three of its senior officers can proceed, he denied a motion to establish it as a class-action lawsuit.
Yet two of the bank's Indian customers, Jasit Takhar and Anil Gupta, filed a case alleging discrimination last March, when they fell behind on payments on a nearly $1.5 million loan from Lotus to buy a Travelodge motel in Jackson.
The lawsuit is based on a series of emails exchanged between the bank's president, Neal Searle, and one of its executive vice presidents, Richard Bauer, who is also the bank's CFO, crainsdetroit.com said.
Both are named as defendants, as is chief lending officer John Westerheide, the recipient of some of the emails, which contain highly derogatory comments about Indians.
One, by Bauer, as cited by the website, said that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian," and another by him, when asked if he wanted free tickets for his Indian customers to attend a concert by an Indian singer, said he was "only interested if someone is going to detonate an incendiary device."
A brief in the lawsuit quotes Searle as saying, to others associated with the bank: "I don't care what your Indian buddies told you, I make the decisions. I know how you Indians operate. You like to deal with someone you know in upper management, but this does not work like that. Do you understand English?"
Takhar and Gupta eventually got current on their loan after repeatedly being threatened with foreclosure.
Arguing to have the case dismissed, the Lotus bank's lawyer Patrick McCarthy on Wednesday agreed that the emails by Searle and Bauer were wrong, but said they had nothing to do with the bank's actions regarding Takhar and Gupta.