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Colonial BancGroup files for bankruptcy protection

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Colonial BancGroup Inc., the Montgomery-based real estate lender whose banking unit was shut down by the government and sold to BB&T Corp. earlier this month, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company listed debts of $380 million and assets of just $45 million in its Tuesday filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Alabama. A list of creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims shows that Bank of New York Trust Co. has a $253.7 million claim and Bank of New York Trust Co. of Fla., a $104.1 million claim.

With about $25 billion in deposits, Colonial Bank represents the largest U.S. bank failure so far this year, and the sixth-largest in U.S. history. The FDIC sold most of its deposits, 346 branches in five states and about $22 billion in assets to BB&T. Colonial Bank's collapse is expected to cost the insurance fund $2.8 billion.

Colonial BancGroup remains under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged accounting irregularities at its mortgage warehouse lending unit in Orlando. It also was the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation related to its bid for federal bailout funds and its accounting for loan loss reserves.

The company posted losses for several straight quarters, as it wrote off millions in residential construction and mortgage loans, most tied to hard-hit markets in Florida. Delinquencies on commercial real estate loans remain a hot spot of potential trouble for many regional banks, as many companies have shut down in the recession, vacating shopping malls and office buildings financed by the loans.

Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., one of the nation's biggest independent mortgage bankers, said Monday it filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of Colonial Bank's failure. Colonial, which for years had been Taylor Bean's primary bank, froze about 100 of its accounts earlier this month.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffmharrington.

Colonial BancGroup files for bankruptcy protection 08/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 3:15pm]

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