Banking Agent for Hire: Greenberg Steps In to Help Settle Disputes

With Decades of Banking Work in Arsenal, Private Banker Aids in Lender-Borrower Quarrels; Offers CFO Services, Too

By Nancy Kercheval
Daily Record Business Writer

Armed with his ability to talk the talk and walk the walk of a banker, Stuart Greenberg rides into town to settle a dispute between the lender and the borrower.

At day's end, when his work is done, Greenberg rides off into the sunset to prepare for another day when a troubled corporation needs a CFO for hire or an expert witness in a legal battle.

Greenberg, a private banker, draws on his decades of banking work to intervene in borrower-lender disputes or to do the talking for a middle-market company that needs to communicate with a lending officer or negotiate a loan workout agreement.

"A lot of corporate officials don't understand the banking community and how to negotiate," Greenberg said. "Who better to do it than a banker who knows the tricks of the trades?"

Greenberg said it's just a matter of "turning the desk around" and sitting on the side of the borrower, not the lender.

Loan documents tend to be fairly uniform as the bank follows the regulatory process and the borrower makes certain promises.

Greenberg weeds through the loan documents, line by line, looking for any discrepancies or violations of regulations. He's usually dealing with commercial loans in the seven-figures-and-up range.

Working both sides

But his ammunition often comes from the loan officer's own mouth and through his actions. He may be intimidating, threatening, or failing to follow the straight line of regulatory requirements.

"Often when the borrower brings me in, it's clear the bank's actions are questionable," he said. "When the bank makes a mistake, it's usually a capital-letter mistake."

When the bank hires Greenberg as its expert witness, it's a matter of making sure the loan officer crossed all his t's and dotted all his i's, and that the bank didn't violate any of its own policies or certain banking regulations.

"Banks by accident have made major decisions that have jeopardized the assets of the borrower," he said.

"There's really no loan I couldn't take a look at and not find fault by someone," he said. "No one follows the purist school."

Greenberg prefers to make himself available as an expert witness for both the lenders and the borrowers.

"Then I don't become known as a hired gun. I can show a level of objectivity at all times," he said. "If I represented the banks 100 percent of the time, there's a certain perception. I'm sitting there under oath. I have to tell the truth."

"But as an expert in terms of banking, I don't care what side you represent, it's not black and white. There's always a gray area," he said.

Greenberg said he's on the winning side -- most of the time. He won't take on a client if he finds fault in the preliminary examinations of the loan documents.

"I've taken some licks," he said, "but no TKOs. I'm not going to take a case unless I'm on solid ground."

But then neither does he become easily intimidated by an opposing attorney who hammers away at his calculations. "I prefer to look at it as intellectual combat."

About one-third of his work deals with expert witness testimony. These cases stop and start as they proceed toward an end.

The greater majority of Greenberg's work deals with his title as "CFO for hire" for companies in the $75 million to $200 million range. Greenberg is brought in when the company's accountant or comptroller is over his head and a loan workout agreement is looming in the company's future.

"Companies don't know how to talk to their bankers," he said.

But probably more importantly in a loan workout agreement, they don't know how to negotiate with tough-talking collectors.

"It's a lot tougher to have to deal with the pressures of workout people," he said. "Their job is not to be nice. It's collection time. They have a whole different mindset."

Greenberg's obvious goal is to negotiate a settlement that both sides will accept.

"In any negotiating process, you never get 100 percent of your loaf," he said. "If I have to leave 1 percent or 2 percent on the table and walk away with 98 percent and 99 percent, my client is happy. To think you will get 100 percent is not realistic."

When Greenberg walks into a room with a bank loan officer, he said, both sides know there won't be any dancing around the subject.

"They know I know the drill and landscape in which they work. There's no ego, no role-playing," he said. "We have a job to do, let's get it done."

At the end of the day, Greenberg said he's like "the lone ranger. I just say goodbye and ride off."

Expert Witness - Private Banker - CFO for Hire - Financial/Banking Consultant - Litigation Consultant
Stuart Greenberg, Inc. 112 Witherspoon Road, Baltimore, MD 21212
Telephone (410)-261-5080 Fax (410)-261-5075

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