FDIC Files $200 Million Lawsuit Against Neil Bush, Other S&L Officers
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush’s son Neil and other directors of a failed Colorado thrift were guilty of ″gross negligence″ that contributed to the institution’s collapse, federal regulators allege in a $200 million lawsuit.
″We are seeking in this case to recover every available dollar for the federal deposit insurance funds and the American taxpayers,″ FDIC Senior Deputy General Counsel Douglas H. Jones said in a statement announcing the civil suit.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. suit alleges the defendants ″repeatedly breached their duties″ to Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association and its depositors.
The FDIC filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Denver, where Silverado was based.
It contends the outside directors, including Neil Bush, failed to properly monitor the affairs of Silverado and the conduct of its senior management.
″Our conclusion is that Silverado was the victim of sophisticated schemes and abuses by insiders and of gross negligence by its directors and outside professionals,″ Jones said.
The FDIC already has filed more than 200 similar lawsuits against directors in cases of S&L failure. But Neil Bush’s case has attracted particular attention because, as the president’s son, he has become a high-profile symbol of the $500 billion S&L crisis.
A White House spokesman who declined to be identified said Friday that the president would have no comment on the lawsuit.
Bush, 35, served from August 1985 to August 1988 on the board of Silverado, which was seized by regulators Dec. 9, 1988. The failure cost taxpayers an estimated $1 billion.
Bush and his lawyer didn’t return calls Friday seeking comment on the FDIC lawsuit. Bush has denied any wrongdoing concerning Silverado in the separate conflict-of-interest case brought against him by the Office of Thrift Supervision.
He faces a hearing beginning Tuesday in Denver on those allegations.
The FDIC said improper loans and investments were made by Silverado’s officers and approved by its directors. Many of the transactions violated federal regulations, it said.
″Silverado’s lending and investment practices during this period were unsafe and unsound and were designed to achieve the appearance of growth at the expense of the long-term health″ of the institution, according to the brief filed by the FDIC.
In addition to Bush, former Silverado officials named as defendants were: Michael Wise, chairman and chief executive officer; Robert Lewis, chief financial officer; Richard Vandapool, chief operating officer; Russell Murray, executive vice president; W. James Metz, who owned 88 percent of Silverado’s stock; and outside directors Florian Barth, Richard Bunchman, Diane Ingels, Marjorie Page and Richard Vitkus.
The suit also accuses Wise, Lewis and Metz of ″unjust enrichment″.
The FDIC named Silverado’s lawyers as defendants. The firm of Sherman & Howard of Denver was general counsel to Silverado from 1984 to 1988, and Ronald Jacobs, a partner in the law firm, served on the board of the institution’s holding company.
The law firm and its lawyers placed ″the interests of a few insiders over those of the institution they were retained to protect,″ the FDIC said in the statement.
At next week’s hearing in Denver, the Office of Thrift Supervision is seeking an order that effectively could bar Bush from working for a bank or a savings and loan.
The thrift agency contends that Bush failed to adequately disclose to Silverado his business relationships with developers Kenneth M. Good and Bill L. Walters, two big borrowers who defaulted on their loans.
The FDIC lawsuit will have no effect on the Office of Thrift Supervision’s proceeding, OTS spokesman Tom Mason said Friday.
A final decision in the OTS case isn’t due until April, after Administrative Law Judge Daniel J. Davidson makes a recommendation to OTS Director Timothy Ryan.