Mo. AG files motion to protect JCC assets in lawsuit

Staff Report

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion today in federal court in an effort to intervene in the Bank of America lawsuit against the Jewish Community Center. The motion seeks to protect the JCC’s charitable assets.

Bank of America filed the lawsuit against the JCC in March, alleging breach of contract over issues related to repayment of bonds and a revolving line of credit, according to court documents.

The bank said the JCC was withholding some $4 million in payments in order to force the restructuring of tens of millions of dollars in bond loans related to capital improvements the JCC made to both its Creve Coeur and Chesterfield locations.

“Even though JCC may profess concerns over its future financial uncertainties, it unquestionably has the ability to live up to its obligations to Bank of America,” said the suit. “JCC has simply chosen not to do so. In short, JCC is using the specter of financial uncertainty to shirk its current obligations to Bank of America, with the goal of forcing Bank of America to accept either an unacceptable restructuring of the $45 million loan or a substantial discount of the $45 million loan.”

In a letter issued to board members in March, the JCC said it had done everything possible to settle the issue reasonably. The letter was signed by Jonathan Deutsch, chairman of the JCC board, and Lynn Wittels, President and CEO of the JCC.

The Attorney General’s motion asserts that the AG’s office is intervening as it represents the public interest in the charitable pledges and donations made to the JCC. “The Bank of America lawsuit seeks to impose a constructive trust on pledges and donations made to the JCC, which would call into question actual control of JCC’s assets,” states a news release from the AG’s office.

“The Jewish Community Center is one of the most important and historic charitable institutions in our state,” Koster said in the release. “While I recognize that this is a difficult situation for all involved, I am committed to ensuring that the assets of this charitable institution are fairly treated throughout these proceedings.”

Wittels released a statement today saying the JCC is “grateful” for the motion filed by the AG “which comes in response to an aggressive legal maneuver the Bank of America took” in filing the lawsuit.

“The State is seeking to protect the J — a non-profit organization that serves tens of thousands of members of this community — from the Bank of America’s effort to, in effect, seize our assets,” the statement continued. 

The bank’s court filings seek the court “to establish a constructive trust for the bank’s sole benefit” which if successful, would convert the JCC’s not-for-profit assets “into bank assets, which are certainly not charitable and certainly not the purpose for which they were intended,” Wittels states.

“The Missouri Attorney General is authorized by law to protect charitable interests in this State, and therefore has an interest in objecting to this attempt. His defense of one of the St. Louis area’s key community organizations is both entirely appropriate and deeply appreciated. As we explained in a motion we filed ourselves last week, the bank’s effort is completely contrary to the law,” Wittels said.  

“Despite this litigation, the J continues to operate normally.  We remain optimistic that, in the end, a fair resolution will be found,” she said.

• Read the Jewish Light’s March 2 story on the lawsuit.

View a June video interview with JCC CEO Lynn Wittels, in which she discusses the case, and ongoing negotiations with Bank of America.