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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

Campbell heir blaming CPB for losses


BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Central Pacific Bank is being sued by Campbell Estate heir James Growney for allegedly mismanaging his assets.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | July 2008

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An heir to the Campbell Estate fortune has sued Central Pacific Bank after suffering more than $1.5 million in investment losses.

In a complaint filed in state Circuit Court, James Growney alleged that CPB's wealth management group and its financial adviser Van Kampen Investments failed to properly manage and monitor his investment account in 2007 and 2008.

"CPB and Van Kampen were, for all intents and purposes, asleep at the switch while the value of the account deteriorated over a several month period in 2008," wrote Growney's attorney Paul Alston.

"Without regard to Mr. Growney's interests, CPB either purposely or through gross neglect neglected to take any action to end the hemorrhaging in a number of the worst performing stocks, despite long and deep declines."

Central Pacific said it did nothing wrong or unethical and plans to "vigorously defend this action."

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Growney blames us for the global market meltdown that affected almost everyone with equity investments," said James Kawashima, CPB's attorney.

"He is a seasoned investor with significant assets and an acute understanding of investment risks, which he voluntarily chose to take."

Growney's suit comes at the tail end of an upswing in local securities-related litigation, said local attorney and mediator Michael Nauyokas. Lawsuits and arbitrations over stock market losses generally began to pick up about two years ago when the nation's financial markets began faltering, Nauyokas said. But since then, securities-related litigation has declined, he said.

"Anytime you have a market meltdown, within a certain amount of months you see a significant amount of claims," Nauyokas said.

"It's cyclical."

According to the lawsuit, Growney opened a savings account in March 2007 with a balance of more than $7 million. But based on CPB's recommendation, he transferred the funds to an investment account managed by CPB, the suit said.

The value of the stocks in his account initially increased by 10 percent before declining steadily in early 2008.

One of the stocks, American International Group, was purchased in March 2007 for $69.26 per share but was sold in September 2008 for $2.17 per share after the insurance giant required a massive federal bailout, Growney said.

Trading in other financial stocks Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs resulted in losses of about $350,000, Growney's suit said.

"It appeared that Van Kampen was buying and selling stocks with no apparent strategy," the suit said.

"Van Kampen was selling stocks that had increased in value and retained others, including many in the financial sector, that were plummeting."

Growney, 76, is a great-grandson of James Campbell, the Scottish seaman and namesake of the $2.6 billion James Campbell Co. A former advertising and marketing executive, Growney is now retired but provides consulting services for select clients.

Central Pacific is the state's third largest financial institution, with assets of $5.4 billion.