House Banking Chairman Criticizes Lincoln Bond Sales
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The sale of now worthless bonds through Lincoln Savings and Loan Association violated federal securities rules, the chairman of the House Banking Committee charged Monday.
Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, whose panel is investigating the collapse of Lincoln, said a recently discovered memo written by a senior Lincoln official indicates ″numerous violations″ of regulations.
They include the payment of prohibited sales bonuses to bond salespersons and the participation of Lincoln employees in the sales, he said.
Regulators, who seized Lincoln in April, estimate the failure will cost taxpayers $2 billion, making it the costliest S&L collapse in the nation’s history.
Also, between December 1986 and Februrary 1989, more then 22,000 Lincoln customers, more than half of them older than 60 years, purchased $250 million worth of subordinated debt in Lincoln’s parent company, American Continental Corp., a Phoenix, Ariz., firm that has filed for protection under bankruptcy laws.
In a hearing before the banking committee earlier this month, bondholders testified they either were led to believe or were explicitly told the debt was similar to a federally-insured certificate of deposit.
Dariush Razavi, a senior vice president at Lincoln, outlined the bond-sale program in a July 26 memo to Mark Randall, the government agent supervising the S&L.
Lincoln and American Continental employees were told in a series of November 1986 meetings that ″sales of bonds would have priority over any other deposit product line offered by Lincoln Savings,″ Razavi wrote.
Gonzalez, in a news release, labeled that, ″an utterly appalling conflict of interest by the savings and loan.″
Razavi’s memo also indicates that bond salespersons received ″incentive″ payments up to $300 a month ″for achieving sales goals.″
″These bonuses appear to be a flagrant violation of (Securities and Exchange Commission) regulations, and they directly contradict a statement in the (American Continental) prospectus,″ Gonzalez said.
Another senior Lincoln official, who committee aides declined to identify by name, told the committee that memorandums announcing the bonuses were destroyed in an attempt to cover up the violations, Gonzalez said.
″With the offer of hundreds of dollars per month in the prohibited bonuses dangling before their eyes, it’s no wonder the employees were lured into steering Lincoln customers away from their safe insured deposits to the high- risk bonds,″ Gonzalez said.
Razavi said bond salespersons were on average 22 years old, earned $20,000 a year and were ″young, impressionable″ and eager to further their careers.
Although bond salespersons were paid by American Continental, they easily transferred back and forth between the payroll of the S&L and its holding company.
″Seventy-seven percent of the current employees of Lincoln Savings were directly involved with the bond program,″ Razavi said.
He said salespersons sincerly believed they were promoting worthwhile investments and noted that they sold $1.07 million of the bonds to themselves or family members.
Gonzalez also said that $13 million of the debt sales came late in 1986, before American Continental had obtained the necessary permission from California regulators.
An attorney representing American Continental had not seen the committee’s latest accusations and had no immediate comment on them Monday.
The banking committee held six hearings this fall exploring why regulators delayed closing Lincoln. The Senate Ethics Committee has hired an independent counsel to examine charges that five senators - Alan Cranston, D-Calif.; Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich.; Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz.,; John Glenn, D-Ohio, and John McCain, R-Ariz. - improperly intervened with regulators on Lincoln’s behalf.