Lawyers for Financial General Bankshares Inc. asked a federal court yesterday to cite Bert Lance for contempt of court for failing to meet with them to answer questions about his role in the alleged attempt to take over Financial General.
Instead of answering questions as ordered by the court, Lance left yesterday on a 10-day trip to Europe for Friendship Force, a people-to-people program founded by President Carter when he was governor of Georgia, the attorneys complained.
The court papers filed late yesterday ask for "an appropriate sanction including a citation for contempt" against Lance, the former federal budget director.
Financial General also asked for a temporary restraining order to block any attempts to gain control of the $2.2 billion Washington bank holding company.
A hearing is expected to be held today on the two motions filed by Edward McAmis, lead attorney for Financial General in a lawsuit filed against Lance and others who have allegedly tried to take over the company.
In the request that Lance be cited for contempt, McAmis repeated complaints he has made in court before that Lance is delaying action on the lawsuit.
Noting that other witnesses from whom depositions have been taken in the case "answered questions long into the evening," McAmis said every witness "with one exception has cooperated by staying until that deposition was completed.
"In contrast, the defendant Lance walked out of his deposition at 5:30 p.m. on March 1, 1978 over my objection with questions pending and unanswered," McAmis said.
Other Financial General sources said Lance took a two-hour lunch break in the midst of his questioning, saying that he was going to the White House to have lunch with President Carter.
In the week since he was questioned Lance has failed to schedule an appointment so the questioning can be completed, McAmis said. He said Lance's lawyers, Clark Clifford and Robert Altman have been unable to even tell him where Lance is.
Citing press reports of Lance's activities, McAmis said Lance and his wife LaBelle, were to have left New York yesterday on a 10-day, 10-country trip through Europe.
The White House said yesterday there is no official status to Lance's trip on behalf of the Friendship force program. Lance, who is co-chairman of Friendship Force, reporedly is paying for the trip with his own money.
Lance's attorneys earlier had asked for delays in the schedule for taking sworn statements from principals in the case, citing their client's busy schedule. Judge oliver Gasch granted a delay of only one day, forcing Clifford and Altman to fly to London this week for interviews that were to have been completed yesterday.
McAmis said the further questioning of Lance is needed to enable Financial General to prepare its case for a temporary injuction to block any attempts to take control of the company.
The inancial General Lawyer's affidavit said, "enough evidence has been obtained from Lance and others to establish a 13 (d) violation." Section 13 (d) of the federal secruties law requires persons who acquire more than five percent of the stock of a company to report that acquisition to the company and Securities and Exchange Commission.
Documents filed yesterday showed that $14.3 million worth of the shares of Financial General - about 20 percent of the total - have been acauired by the persons seeking control of the company.
The purchasers of the stock - believed to be four Middle Eastern investors - have not been named. Lance and others involved in the lawsuit say they have acted only as agents for the pruchasers.
The stock purchases began before Christmas, the court records show. The defendants have refused to disclose whether the purchases are continuing, McAmis said. He argues that is why a temporary restraining order should be issued to halt any further takeover activity.
The court records filed yesterday show that the stock was purchased with funds provided by Stephens Inc., a Little Rock investment banking firm, and Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a London financial institution with ties to the Middle East.
BCCI purchased nearly 20 percent of the stock, McAmis charged, then "developed" four individual investors in whose name the stock would be held.
At least two of these unnamed investors gave BCCI the power of attorney to vote their stock, the filings showed. Financial General contended that the power of attorney is further evidence that more than 5 percent of the shares were controlled by a single group, requiring the report to the SEC.
BCCI has not yet explained its role in the purchase of the Financial General stock. About 24 percent of BCCI is owned by the Bank of America in Los Angeles, which is prohibited by federal law from controlling another American banking company.