Wanting to avoid a lawsuit, the secretive Pritzkers quickly agreed to what the FDIC hailed in December as the biggest settlement they had ever negotiated. The Pritzkers would pay $100 million immediately, then $360 million over 15 years. But there were lots of little provisions in the agreement that benefit the Pritzkers. First, as former bank consultant and longtime thrift watchdog Tim Anderson notes, the $100 million doesn’t even quite pay back all of the unpaid loans made to the owners. The Pritzkers also pay no interest on the $360 million, and since it is paid over many years, the real cost to the Pritzkers may be only around $250 million. As of September 2002, according to FDIC figures, the insurance fund was still out $440 million after this settlement.
But it gets even sweeter for the Pritzkers. The FDIC also agreed to pay the Pritzkers 25 percent of any claim won in a lawsuit against Ernst & Young. Since the FDIC is now suing for $548 million, the Pritzker share could be $137 million. On top of that, the agreement stated that the Pritzkers get half of any civil penalties from such a lawsuit (after certain agency expenses). The FDIC is asking for triple damages, or $1.64 billion; the Pritzker share could be over $800 million.
Even taking into account the “record” settlement they made with the FDIC, the Pritzkers could make more than $700 million in additional profit for running a financial institution into the ground. They had already profited handsomely, sharing in the more than $200 million in dividends to the owners in the ’90s. They accomplished all this with an investment of about $21 million for each partner—though the Pritzkers had also already benefited from $645 million in tax credits.