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George E. Norcross III. (Photo: Brill Public Affairs via Facebook).

Norcross group files suit demanding release of Republic First records

Move is continuation of hostile takeover bid, standoff with bank chairman Vernon Hill

By Joey Fox, March 30 2022 10:11 am

A group led by South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross today filed a lawsuit compelling Republic First Bancorp to release its books and records, further escalating the group’s hostile takeover attempt of the Philadelphia-based bank and Norcross’ own political grudge match with its chairman, Vernon Hill.

“The new suit was necessitated by Republic First’s repeated attempts over a six-week period to prevent turning over the records, including information about related party transactions, and impose unreasonable and unworkable restrictions on their dissemination, effectively refusing to make its books available to Norcross and his partners, [former TD Bank CEO] Gregory Braca and [Norcross’ brother] Philip Norcross,” Norcross spokesman Dan Fee wrote in a statement.

Hill, against whom the Norcross group has also filed a separate lawsuit, was the founder of Commerce Bank, and Norcross worked under him as the head of Commerce Insurance. But the two men had a falling out; Commerce Bank was then sold to TD Bank and Norcross purchased its insurance arm, turning it into Conner Strong & Buckalew.

The Norcrosses and Braca first made their intentions at Republic First clear in January, when they issued a letter castigating the bank for underperforming expectations and suggesting that Braca be installed as CEO.

Since then, the trio has intensified its bid in a number of ways, growing its shares in the bank to 9.6% and filing notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission opposing the renomination of Hill and several of his allies on the Republic First board.

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