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Commission Appointed to Probe Banking Crisis

February 14, 1991

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A nine-member commission assisted by a lawyer who grilled Oliver North during the Iran-Contra probe will investigate Rhode Island’s banking and credit union crisis, the governor announced Thursday.

The panel will be headed by state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeffrey Teitz, D-Newport. But much of the work will be conducted by two lawyers the state hired, Alan I. Baron of Baltimore and John W. Nields Jr. of New York.

Baron, who has prosecuted a number of high-profile cases for Congress and convicted two federal judges, will be the lead special counsel. He will be assisted by Nields, who gained notoriety for his tough questioning of North during the televised hearings into the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration.

The probe will consolidate the various investigations that were planned by the different branches of government. Teitz was to have headed a House probe and the Senate had planned one of its own.

″With the cooperation of the legislative leaders and the attorney general, there will be one unified probe,″ Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun said during a news conference.

Sundlun has been critical of the competing investigations into the collapse of the Rhode Island Share and Indemnity Corp., whose failure forced him to close 45 banks and credit unions Jan. 1.

Fourteen of those institutions remain closed because they have not been able to obtain federal deposit insurance. At least some of them are expected to be forced into receivership. They will be taken over by a new state agency, the Depositors Economic Protection Corp., and their assets will be liquidated to return money to depositors.

The RISDIC Commission will have ″broad jurisdiction to investigate criminal and civil liability as well as legislative and regulatory reforms,″ Sundlun said.

Teitz said the legislators are not beholden to anyone. ″We will explore the role which government officials and agencies played in the evolution of this crisis,″ he said. ″We will examine the operation of RISDIC and its insured financial institutions. We will carefully scrutinize financial transactions at those institutions which appear to involve insider influence and insider information.″

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