* Judge finds Tousa was ‘insolvent’ when loans struck
* Orders funds returned to companies by Oct. 23
LOS ANGELES, Oct 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ruled that loans taken out by homebuilder and financial services company Tousa Inc TOUSQ.PK six months before it filed for bankruptcy involved fraudulent transfers of assets and voided them, ordering the lenders to return more than $600 million.
The ruling, issued on Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, instructed the lenders to wire $403 million plus interest into a disgorgement account on or before Oct. 23.
It also ordered other lenders who took as collateral a $207.3 million federal tax refund Tousa received shortly before the bankruptcy filing to turn over those funds plus interest.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson ruled that Tousa and its subsidiaries, which took about $500 million in loans against substantially all of their assets to settle a lawsuit by creditors, were “insolvent both before and after the transaction”.
The Hollywood, Florida-based company filed for bankruptcy in January of 2008, hurt by the downturn in housing markets in Florida, Nevada and Arizona.
The proceeds of the loans, made July 31, 2007 by Citigroup Inc (C.N) and others, were used to settle litigation against Tousa and a subsidiary over their default on debt incurred to finance “a disastrous business venture” called Transeastern Properties Inc, Judge Olson wrote in his order.
Representatives for Bank of America and JPMorgan could not be reached for comment late on Thursday.
The judge’s order on Tuesday came at the request of a committee representing unsecured creditors, primarily bondholders owed a principal amount slightly over $1 billion.
The case is In re Tousa Inc et al/Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Tousa v. Citicorp North America, Case No. 08-10928, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ft Lauderdale Division. (Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Kim Coghill)