1st Mariner fires its law firm Shapiro & Olander mishandled Glen Burnie affair

November 25, 1997|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

First Mariner Bancorp has fired its corporate counsel, Shapiro & Olander, over the law firm's mishandling of the financial institution's efforts to gain a 20 percent stake in Glen Burnie Bancorp.

"I'm the CEO of this company, and if a mistake like this were to happen again, there would be serious ramifications for me and the bank -- and rightly so," said Edwin F. Hale, chairman of First Mariner.

"I personally like Ron [Shapiro] and Chris [Olander], but I felt that I had to make a change."

Hale said a new corporate counsel has not been named.

Christopher D. Olander, a partner at Shapiro & Olander, said the firm is disappointed to lose First Mariner as a client.

"I have a lot of respect for Ed Hale. He is an exciting guy to work with. We believe we did a yeoman's job for him," said Olander. "It was an unfortunate back office kind of mistake."

In light of the law firm's dismissal, Hale said he planned to discuss with Shapiro whether he should continue to sit on the bank's board.

Hale said he decided to dismiss Shapiro & Olander because he believes an accidental Nov. 14 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission by the law firm led to the collapse of First Mariner's effort to buy 170,883 shares of Glen Burnie Bancorp stock.

The filing, which has since been rescinded, outlined details of First Mariner's agreement to buy closely held Glen Burnie Bancorp's shares from Pasadena resident Ethel Webster for $4.2 million.

The filing immediately led to wire service and newspaper reports about the deal.

Hale said Webster's attorney, Marvin Mandel of Annapolis, reported that his client was upset and embarrassed by the news reports. Webster's father helped found the bank.

The deal would have resulted in First Mariner controlling a 19.8 percent stake of Glen Burnie Bancorp, the holding company for the Bank of Glen Burnie.

Olander said the accidental filing occurred because a test transmission of the document was incorrectly coded before it was electronically filed with the SEC. The proper coding, he said, would have flagged the document as a test transmission, rather than a bone- fide filing. "The procedure for filing these documents is very complicated, unnecessarily so," said Olander. "It was a very, very regrettable mistake, but nothing that a lawyer did."

First Mariner was interested in gaining control of Glen Burnie Bancorp because it wants to expand its business in Anne Arundel County. Now, First Mariner plans to open its own branches.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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