"Maybe it's better the public doesn't know . . . they would be scared to death."
That's Jack Amatucci's philosophical assessment of the Bert Lance story to date. And it explains why Amatucci has given up plans to write a novel about the banking business.
As Washington area residents of more than a year know, Amatucci was rather prominent here as a dealer in Chevrolet cars until 1976. A recent series of family, personal and business problems - many tied to the difficulties of an adopted son - were made public in an extra ordinary article on the front page of The Washington Post last month.
But Amatucci's experiences extend beyond auto sales and a juvenile justice system that hasn't helped his namesake.
As John W. Amatucci, he was an organizer and chairman of a national bank in metropolitan Washington. His father, Thomas A. Amatucci, was chairman and organizer of a federally chartered savings and loan association here and organizer of a national bank in Florida. A brother, Thomas M. Amatucci, was organizer and chairman of another area bank.
It is with this background that Amatucci looks back on the events that led to Lance's decision to resign as President Carter's budget director and, apparently, to return to the banking business in Georgia. In effect, says Amatucci, all Lance did was to follow common banking practices.
Amatucci's views won't be welcomed within the banking fraternity. Indeed, the auto dealer says, aides to the budget chief declined Amatucci's offer to make public a letter in defense of Lance, outlining some typical banking activities. "The letter didn't make bankers look good," Amatucci adds.
Bankers have tried to remain aloof from the Lance affair, which for them adds up to a no-win situation. They don't want to defend loan agreements, correspondent bank relationships, interest-free overdrafts and company airplane use that consumers may perceive to be improper.
Neither have bankers as individuals have been outspoken in criticism, although bank groups have called some of Lance's activities untypical. Amatucci suggests why in the letter, which was sent to the President and the Senate, and in conversation with a reporter from his current Chevy-Oldsmobile dealership in Brunswick Md.
According to Amatucci, his own experience is that banks are "organized and opened by individuals whose only experience" has been a customer; that organizers attempt to purchase as much of issuing stock as "legally, or otherwise, possible," and that directors "can borrow almost at will from their bank, or one of their bank's correspondents, for any reason."
In addition, Amatucci recalls, loans often are made "that will, directly or indirectly, benefit one or more members of the board" of directors, personally and financially.
Amatucci contends he could go on to describe what he feels are "extreme abuses of the seemingly uncontrolled use of publice funds," "preferential treatment" accorded bankers by the Internal Revenue Service and an attempt by one unnamed Maryland bank to donate $5,000 in cash to a political campaign to win favorable action on a branch application.
(The auto dealer was an active fund-raiser in a number of political campaigns and says he rejected the cash offer.)
Several years ago. Amatucci started to write a novel called, "Buzzards, Bandits and Bankers," to relate what he learned as a organizer and chairman of the old Metropolitan National Bank in Wheaton (now part of Union Trust Co. of Maryland), and what he knew of general practices based on his brother's chairmanship at Southern Maryland Bank & Trust or his father's role as chairman of Guardian Federal S&L and Ormond Beach National Bank in Florida.
In 1968, for example, Amatucci says he obtained a loan from a national bank for $681,200 in exchange for collateral of stock in an insurance agency, worth $2,500. He also says he borrowed money from a New York bank to invest in the Wheaton bank. "No money was ever put up . . . we were sitting around playing gin rummy one night when we decided to open a bank," he recalls.
In short, says Amatucci, "Pleasedon't blame Mr. Lance for 'the system'." But the auto dealder has no plans to continue with his novel. "Everybody needs the banks, I don't want to talk . . . I'll never get a loan if I do."
Similarly, he suggests that members of Congress can be expected to pass no significant legislation changing banking practices. The senators and representatives have loans and bank accounts of their own and many have been bank or S&L directors, Amatucci notes.
BUSY SIGNAL - If you've been trying to call the D.C. Superintendent of Insurance Maximilion Wallach, there's a busy signal. But there's no nationwide crisis brewing, such as last year, when extra telephone lines were needed to handle calls associated with a firm in trouble.
"A few days ago, our telephone number was changed . . . and we were told, belatedly, that the C&P Telephone Co. is not able to run a referral tape" informing callers of the new numbers, Wallch, laments. "I can see our reputation going to pot," says the man who guided insurance regulators from coast to coast in keeping Government Employees Insurance Co. solvent.
Noting the D.C. government's thin budget, Wallach says he hopes The Post can publish the new numbers "without charge." Here they are: 727-1273; 727-1276; and 727-1277.
FUTURE FILE - Shopco Co. will unveil plans on Thursday for a 100-store Laurel Mall, to be constructed at Route 1 and Cherry Lane at a coast of $40 million, with an August 1979 opening . . .
Look for possible pressure on profits of the Hechinger Co. in the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year ending next January. The retail chain plans to consolidate seven scattered warehouses at a new headquarters in Prince George's County early in the new year . . . Costs of the move plus perfection of new computer equipment could be a drag on earnings, officers say . . .
A cashless, checkless society has some Virginia organizations worried . . . the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council will hold a seminar on Nov. 14-15 at Virginia Poly's extension facilities at Dulles . . . industry, government and consumer representatives are invited, with Esther Peterson coming from the White House.