Lake Las Vegas is a 3,592-acre developed area that surrounds a 320-acre artificial lake in Nevada. The lake is an artificial dam structure that was completed in 1991. It sits on top of the Las Vegas Wash, which still passes under it through two 2.4 meter diameter pipes. The lake is surrounded by a lake resort that consists of three separate resorts including the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort, the Hilton Lake Las Vegas and the Aston MonteLago Village Resort.
On the July of 2008, the Lake Las Vegas LLC filed for bankruptcy. At this time, it had debts estimated at 540 million US dollars. Subsequently, Lake Las Vegas became the subject of a lawsuit between Highland Capital Management and Credit Suisse, the latter being the agent for a syndicate of entities that gave loans for a project to develop the property. Credit Suisse offered loans to project developers at the resort by seeking finance from non-banking organizations like Highland Capital in the form of loans. The lenders were to benefit by accessing high-return real estate property while Credit Suisse would benefit by earning a fee from each transaction.
Led by James Dondero Highland Capital accused Credit Suisse of overly inflating the value of the project so as to generate higher fees for itself. Dondero, President and Co-founder of Highland Capital Management, said that Credit Suisse had known all along that the loan was fraudulent. Dondero said that he had evidence of one Credit Suisse banker describing the loan as ‘crap’ in an e-mail to his colleagues.
Dondero talked about another e-mail from David Miller, which pointed out that Credit Suisse was the sole manager of the Lakes Las Vegas financing and was therefore bound to profit nine billion dollars for its services. Miller goes further in the e-mail to say that ‘he would go anywhere he could find money’. David Miller is said to have designed the methodology used to property in contention. A separate e-mail discovery from Credit Suisse referred to Miller as Dr. Frankenstein.
Lawyers of Highland Capital said that Lake Las Vegas deal was introduced as a loan product by Credit Suisse to project developers. The loans were, however, deceitful as the developers would immediately give themselves enormous bonuses from the proceeds. The developers would eventually sour and go into bankruptcy or restructuring. Credit Suisse, however, denied any wrongdoing and accused Highland capital of looking for a scapegoat.
In 2015, the courts ordered Credit Suisse to pay 211.9 million dollars in damages and 75.6 million dollars in prejudgment damages to Highland Capital for a breach of contract.
Previously, in 2014, a jury awarded Highland Capital 40 million dollars in a verdict against Credit Suisse. The Jury found that the bank had fraudulently hidden information to lure Highland Capital in refinancing the Las Vegas Lake development in 2007. In a statement, Dondero said that the disregard for lenders displayed by Credit Suisse was the most reckless he had seen in thirty years. He was, however, glad that his firm had managed to recover damages for its funds and investors.