West Virginia governor sues bank in latest twist for his biz


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his companies are suing another bank lender, the latest trouble for his business empire after he revealed he is personally liable for $700 million in loans to a separate lender.

The Republican governor’s coal and hospitality businesses filed a lawsuit on Monday against Virginia-based Carter Bank & Trust over claims of deception. Justice is also personally on the hook for $368 million in remaining loan debt to that bank, according to court documents.

News of the lawsuit comes after Justice confirmed on Tuesday that he personally guaranteed $700 million in loans taken by his coal companies from a lender in the United Kingdom that went bankrupt.

The Republican governor on Tuesday took shots at the bankrupt Greensill Capital U.K. and said “it is a burden on our family beyond belief.” Justice’s Bluestone Resources Inc. sued Greensill in March in federal court in New York.

Justice’s businesses face several other woes, including penalties totaling $3.2 million from the federal government and lawsuits over claims his companies failed to deliver coal.

In the latest lawsuit, Justice’s companies seek $421 million in damages from Carter Bank over deceptive practices. Justice says a close business relationship dramatically fell apart after the death of the bank’s founder, Worth Carter, in 2017. West Virginia Metro News first reported on the lawsuit.

Court documents call Carter a “banking legend” and say that Justice and him were so close he delivered a eulogy at his funeral. Over nearly 16 years, Justice’s enterprises acquired over $775 million in loans from the lender and has so far paid down $407 million of it.

But Justice claims new leadership that took over Carter Bank after his death were hostile. The complaint says bank officials reneged on handshake agreements over extensions on loan payments tied to his declining coal business. Instead of putting pen to paper, the bank ignored follow-up correspondences from Justice’s businesses, according to the complaint, and forced them into “oppressive” loan terms.

“The mutually beneficial, trust-backed relationship with late Worth Carter in helping the Justice Entities weather tough times was unexpectedly replaced with the cold silence of the new Carter Bank,” the filing says.

Instead of a repayment extension that was orally agreed on, the bank in early October 2017 said the loans were in default and demanded repayment of nearly $268 million within ten days, according to court documents.

A day later, the bank offered a litany of unfavorable changes to loan terms, which plaintiffs say they “had no choice but to acquiesce to.”

The suit blames new bank leaders Litz Van Dyke and Phyllis Karavatakis for “pulling the rug of trust and confidence right out from under the Justice Entities.” Several other instances of “bad faith” practices are also alleged in the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the bank did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

At a Tuesday news conference where he faced questions over his debt to Greensill, Justice briefly alluded to personally guaranteeing the loans that were held by Carter Bank & Trust.

“I did personally guarantee the loans,” he said. “The loans have always been personally guaranteed when they flowed from Carter Bank through Greensill to other banks along the way. That’s been the case for a very, very, very long time.”

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