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Justice asks for less focus on debts during campaign

CHARLESTON — With an auction of the Greenbrier Sporting Club announced to satisfy a portion of $300 million debt to his longtime lender, Gov. Jim Justice says his family businesses will make some moves in response.

Justice alleged that the family’s longtime banker, Carter Bank, has been engaging in unfair business practices — although the governor said he was bound by a confidentiality agreement to not further describe supporting details. The Justices already have an active federal lawsuit against Carter Bank, and he suggested there will be another action.

“I don’t believe there will be one ounce of anything sold, period,” Justice said Wednesday during a weekly briefing. “Absolutely, we want to protect the Sporting Club and all those members in every single way.

“With all that being said, I really believe when we get the proper rulings and we move forward and we’re able to release what we really know and what I truly know right now that I can’t tell you — and I am biting the whole side of my cheek out because I want to tell you, I want to tell you so bad what these people have done.”

The governor, who is in a campaign for U.S. Senate, said his political activity is being used as pressure by the bank — and he concluded his briefing by again asking for less public focus on the Justice family
business holdings.

Later in the afternoon, a spokesman for the campaign of his Republican rival, Congressman Alex Mooney, said these matters are the public’s business and that Justice should be more forthcoming.

Carter Bank & Trust gave notice it planned to auction the Greenbrier Sporting Club on the courthouse steps March 5 to satisfy a multi-million dollar debt from Justice and his family.

The Greenbrier Sporting Club is a private club offering memberships to people who buy real estate surrounding The Greenbrier resort.

Carter Bank & Trust has been moving to collect $300 million in debts that were personally guaranteed by Justice, his wife Cathy and their son Jay, who runs the family’s coal operations. The debts applied to several branches of the family’s business network, including Greenbrier Hotel Corp., Greenbrier Golf and Tennis Club and Greenbrier Sporting Club.

Those loans came due April 15, 2023.

Lawyers for Justice’s companies responded by filing motions to set aside the confessed judgments in the 11 cases. They had argued that restrictions on the loans were so inflexible that Carter Bank was engaging in unfair business practices.

Last month, a circuit judge in Martinsville, Va., dismissed the Justice defense: “The defendants offer sparse analysis as to how these defenses are either adequate or dispositive.”

The Justices have countered with their own lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit asks for more than $1 billion in damages, contending Carter Bank & Trust has engaged in unfair business practices, kneecapping the Justice family businesses.

The federal judge in that case is considering whether to toss the lawsuit, largely because of venue. Carter Bank has contended southern West Virginia doesn’t make any sense for jurisdiction because the bank, its board and the Justice business headquarters are all actually in western Virginia.

In Justice’s remarks Wednesday, he seemed to be alluding to yet another action against Carter.

“All I would say is stay tuned, watch what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’d just stay tuned.