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Palmetto State Bank says it had no involvement in alleged Murdaugh settlement scheme

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A Hampton County sheriff’s vehicle passes by the Hampton County Courthouse on June 9, 2021. A Hampton-based bank is washing its hands of any involvement in an alleged scheme to defraud the family of Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper of millions of dollars from a wrongful-death settlement. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

COLUMBIA — A South Carolina bank is washing its hands of any involvement in an alleged scheme to defraud the family of Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper of millions of dollars from a wrongful-death settlement.

In an Oct. 15 legal filing, Palmetto State Bank said it had nothing to do with the 2018 lawsuit brought by the sons of Gloria Satterfield, even though one of the bank’s vice presidents served as the personal representative of the Satterfield estate in that case.

The Hampton-based bank said on Oct. 15 that Chad Westendorf represented the Satterfield’s estate only in a personal capacity, not as part of his official duties. The bank insisted no money from the $4.3 million Satterfield settlement was ever deposited in any of its accounts. It said it knew nothing of a conspiracy to hijack money that was owed to Satterfield’s family and misdirect it instead to disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh, the lawsuit’s defendant.

The bank requested to be dismissed as a defendant from a recent lawsuit alleging the scheme.

“The claims asserted against the bank in this lawsuit are wholly unsupported,” the bank’s lawyers wrote in a statement. “While the actions of Alex Murdaugh continue to shock us all in South Carolina, the bank had no involvement in those activities.”

That's not true, said one of the attorneys suing the bank on behalf of the Satterfield family.

"Their lawyers are trying to dig their heels in," trial attorney Eric Bland said. "We look forward to disproving a lot of what they say."

Bland said Westendorf got permission from Palmetto State Bank to work on the Satterfield case, filed papers in the case as vice president of the bank and had correspondence mailed to his office at the bank — not his home address.

The bank's 24-page filing comes a day after Murdaugh, the scandal-scarred scion of a powerful legal family in Hampton County, was arrested in connection with the alleged Satterfield scheme and charged with two felonies.

Murdaugh on Oct. 15 agreed to be extradited from Florida on those charges. He is scheduled to appear at a bond hearing on Oct. 18 in South Carolina.

The bank’s statement also continues a trend of lawyers, bankers, financial firms and former friends scrambling to distance themselves from Murdaugh and his alleged scams.

Murdaugh’s former law office of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick also claimed no role in the Satterfield settlement, while his close friend, Beaufort lawyer Cory Fleming, said last week he too was duped by Murdaugh during the deal.

A spokeswoman for Murdaugh declined to comment on Oct. 15. Efforts to reach attorneys for Fleming were unsuccessful.

Last month, attorneys Bland and Ronnie Richter filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Satterfield’s sons. They asserted Satterfield’s family had received nothing from a settlement that was negotiated in secret on their behalf.

Bland and Richter said Murdaugh had encouraged the sons to sue him — and hire Fleming to do it — after their mother died following a February 2018 trip and fall at a Murdaugh property. Bland and Richter said Fleming encouraged the Satterfield’s to appoint Westendorf to represent and manage her estate.

After that, the Satterfield sons were never told of the $4.3 million settlement that was negotiated on their behalf, the new lawsuit alleged.

Instead, Bland and Richter said, Murdaugh — the defendant — told Fleming to direct the money to a fraudulent bank account that Murdaugh had disguised to look like that of a financial firm that manages settlement payments. From there, the money disappeared, they alleged.

Fleming settled the lawsuit earlier this month, agreeing to pay the Satterfields all the legal fees he was awarded from the case. He admitted making mistakes in the case and said he was misled by Murdaugh, his friend and former law school classmate, to believe the money was going to the Satterfields.

Palmetto State Bank is one of the new lawsuit's defendants.

Its pushback on Oct. 15 comes days after Bland and Richter moved to hold the bank liable for Westendorf's actions in the Satterfield case.

In its filing, the bank states Westendorf is "an exemplary person of integrity who has helped and served others." When Westendorf agreed to serve as personal representative for the Satterfield estate, he had "no reason to suspect or know of Murdaugh's scheme to defraud and steal," the bank said.

The bank moved to shift any blame from itself and Westendorf to Fleming, saying the attorney for the Satterfields' estate gave Westendorf bad legal direction about how to handle the case.

Reach Avery Wilks at 803-374-3115. Follow him on Twitter at @AveryGWilks. Send tips to averywilks93@protonmail.com.

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