Bert Lance and five other men illegally concealed a plan to take over Financial General Bankshares, the $2.2 billion Washington bank holding company, a lawyer for Financial General charged in a court hearing yesterday.
Attorney Edward McAmis said Lance and the other defendants in a lawsuit by Financial General, met in a Washington hotel to discuss acquiring 20 percent of the company's stock without reporting the acquisition as required by law.
McAmis charged that the stock "was distributed in component parts to people of Middle East origin" so the four purchasers each owned less than 5 percent.
Control of more than 5 percent of the outstanding shares of a company by a single individual or group is required by law to be reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
If these purchases were coordinated by the defendants, as Financial General claims, federal securities laws would have been violated.
Lance was questioned under oath about the purchase of the stock on Wednesday by lawyers of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
McAmis said he learned of the meeting after taking sworn testimony this week from Lance, attorney Eugene Metzger and Jackson T. Stephens, two other defendants in the case and major Financial General stockholders.
Attorneys for the defendants challenged McAmis' version of the events.
Lance's attorney, Robert Altman, said "We don't agree with the facts of the case as outlined, and we intend to show them as false."
McAmis did not say when the alleged meeting took place. But he said it occurred at the Washington Hilton and was attended by Lance, Metzger, Stephens, Agha Hassan Abedi, a Pakistani-born London banker who heads Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which is also a defendant in the case. Another BCCI official, Abduh Sami, also was present, McAmis said.
McAmis said that Lance told him "it was Stephens who suggested to himself (Lance) and Abedi" that they might obtain control of Financial General.
Subsequent to the meeting, McAmis said, "it appears they arranged to purchase any stock (in Financial General) that was available." He said the persons at the meeting bought 700,000 shares on the open market and 400, 000 privately, some of it at premium prices.
According to McAmis, "Mr. Lance confirmed yesterday that Abedi and defendant BCCI had purchased approximately 20 percent of the stock --1,076,000 shares between Dec. 22 and the end of January. . . " McAmis said the stock was acquired by Metzger and Stephen's firm, Stephens Inc., with Metzger and in some instances BCCI paying Stephens Inc. In other instances stock was bought through accounts in National Bank of Georgia, McAmis said.
Before he became President Carter's budget director, Lance was chairman of National Bank of Georgia. In December he sold his stock in NBG to Ghaith Pharon, a Saudi Arabian financier, who was introduced to him by Abedi.
In the Financial General transaction, "Abedi was the decision maker, he was the one Lance was dealing with," McAmis alleged.
The alleged meeting of Lance, Metzger, Stephens and Abedi was described by McAmis in arguing against requests by some defense attorneys to delay the suit.
Judge Oliver Gasch granted only brief delays, turning down requests to postpone the proceedings for several weeks.
In an exchange with Lance's attorney, who also represents Abedi an BCCI, Gasch suggested that Altman's senior partner, Clark Clifford, provide more manpower for the case.
Altman had pleaded for more time, saying he had to take depositions Sunday in Washington from Lance's son, David, and would not be able to take statements in London on Monday as scheduled.
Gasch ordered the depositions in London to begin on Tuesday.
Altman said he is allowing his overseas clients to make statements, but said he may later challenge the American court's authority over those who are not U.S. citizens.
In yesterday's hearing, McAmis argued against delaying the proceedings, saying he had no way of knowing whether the purchases of Financial General shares were continuing.