April 30, 2014 2:43 PM
Attorneys in the lawsuit against Novi-based Lotus Bank over racist emails by two bank executives were urged Wednesday to try to settle the case by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris.
Morris suggested attorneys for all sides meet with retired Wayne Country Circuit Court Judge James Rashid to help facilitate a settlement and postponed the trial, which had been scheduled to start May 27.
Morris made her comments in open court after meeting with attorneys in her chambers, where they agreed to waive oral arguments Wednesday over motions recently filed, most of them dealing with procedural issues regarding a possible trial.
Morris told attorneys when court was back in session that she is still considering motions for summary judgment they made on April 16 and that any decisions regarding motions about trial issues would come after she ruled on the motions for summary judgment.
In the meantime, the judge made it clear she wanted counsel to try to settle out of court. “This case has had serious settlement discussions among counsel,” said Morris. She urged them to resume talks, this time with Rashid’s help.
“I’ve had very good luck in the past with Judge Rashid,” she said.
Rashid is president of Farmington Hills-based Judicial Resource Services PC.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jasit Takhar and Anil Gupta. Through their Jackson-based firm, Four Pointe Investments LLC, Takhar and Gupta got a mortgage of nearly $1.5 million from Lotus in 2008 to buy a Travelodge motel in Jackson, but later had trouble making payments.
The case is particularly noteworthy because of allegations of racism by a bank founded in 2007 to serve the needs of the local Asian Indian business community. Most of those who invested in the bank were of Indian descent and most of its board members are Indian.
At the heart of the lawsuit are numerous emails, including:
• On May 24, 2010, Bauer referred to members of the board of the bank as “chimps.”
• On June 19, 2010, someone sent Bauer an email offering free tickets to a concert by an Indian singer if he wanted some for his customers. Bauer responded: “Only interested if someone is going to detonate an incendiary device. If so, I will get tics (sic) for all of them.”
• On July 9, 2010, Bauer, who was then acting as interim CEO as well as CFO, wrote to a friend: “We are close to hiring a permanent replacement, which can’t happen too quickly for me. I just want my job back, and someone else can deal with all these Indians. Working with them really is like herding cats, and I hate cats! … I will leave you with this sage advice from General Custer and most Pakistanis: The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
The Lotus board found out about the emails more than a year before the lawsuit was filed. The executives’ pay was cut and they underwent sensitivity training.