Gibbs Law Group and Silver Law Group have filed a class action against Umpqua Bank, alleging that it aided and abetted Professional Financial Investors’ (PFI’s) Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs allege that the bank knew PFI and its principals, Ken Casey and Lewis Wallach, were using new investor money to pay existing investors (and to personally enrich Casey and Wallach), yet continued to provide banking services to PFI.

Umpqua tried to dismiss the case on two separate occasions, but the federal court denied both attempts, allowing the case to proceed. On February 8, 2022, we filed a motion seeking class certification for PFI and PISF investors who have a claim in PFI-PISF’s bankruptcy proceedings. You can read the motion, which features evidence we have discovered on Umpqua’s alleged aiding and abetting, here.

Evidence shows Umpqua’s involvement in PFI’s Ponzi scheme

After Ken Casey died in May 2020, his Ponzi scheme was almost immediately uncovered. For more than a decade, Casey and his partner Lewis Wallach had convinced individuals (many from the Bay Area) to invest in PFI and PISF by promising them steady returns on their investments and ensuring them that their money would be used to purchase and maintain real estate in Marin County and Sonoma County. In reality, PFI and PISF were operating at a massive deficit and surviving only by continually raising new investor money to pay existing investors.

Casey and Wallach ran their scheme entirely through Umpqua Bank’s Novato branch. Investors therefore filed suit against Umpqua, alleging that Casey was only able to keep his Ponzi scheme going for so long because the bank was aiding and abetting the fraud. Plaintiffs allege that while other banks declined to accept PFI and PISF as customers because of Casey’s history of financial crime, Umpqua agreed to look the other way. Plaintiffs allege that Umpqua provided special treatment to PFI as one of the bank’s top customers, and that a banker at Umpqua was intimately familiar with PFI because she worked on the business’ accounts for over a decade. This banker allegedly knew investor money was placed in a particular account, and would transfer investor money from that account for Casey’s personal benefit (and for the benefit of existing investors).

It was not until Casey died, and an outsider had a view of PFI’s financials, that the Ponzi scheme was uncovered. At that point, Casey and Wallach had been running their Ponzi operation through Umpqua for at least 13 years—and Umpqua’s alleged cooperation had caused investors hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

You can read press coverage on the case in The Seattle Times, The Marin Independent Journal, The Pt. Reyes Light, and The Oregonian.

Michael Schrag

Michael has over 25 years of experience representing individual and small business plaintiffs against the world’s largest financial institutions, including Visa, Mastercard, and Wells Fargo.

Linda Lam

Linda Lam focuses her practice on representing consumers, small businesses, and employees in complex litigation.

Scott Silver

Scott focuses his law practice on securities arbitration and litigation and plaintiff-side class action litigation, representing individual investors and institutions in claims against brokerage firms, investment advisors, commodities firms, hedge funds and others.

Our Financial Fraud Experience

Gibbs Law Group

Gibbs Law Group’s financial fraud and securities lawyers have more than two decades of experience prosecuting fraud. The firm has successfully litigated against some of the largest companies in the United States, and has recovered more than a billion dollars on clients’ behalf.

Gibbs Law Group attorneys have fought some of the most complex cases brought under federal and state laws nationwide, and have been recognized with numerous awards and honors for their accomplishments, including Top 100 Super Lawyers in Northern CaliforniaTop Plaintiff Lawyers in CaliforniaThe Best Lawyers in America, and rated AV Preeminent (among the highest class of attorneys for professional ethics and legal skills).

Silver Law Group

Silver Law Group is a team of securities lawyers, forensic accountants, and support staff who are dedicated to helping investors recover losses through securities arbitration and litigation.

The firm is led by Scott Silver, a former Wall Street defense attorney who has been representing customers in securities and investment fraud cases since 2002. Scott is admitted to practice in New York and Florida and the firm’s FINRA arbitration attorneys represents investors nationwide.

Have you invested in PFI and now have questions regarding Umpqua’s alleged role in the Ponzi scheme?

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