Bert Lance, members of his family and his associates shouldn't have to reimburse Calhoun (Ga.) First National Bank for expenses it incurred because they allegedly overdrew their checking accounts freely and received preferential loans, an internal bank report recommends.
The report, which was released yesterday, is part of the settlement terms of a government suit filed in April against Lance and the bank alleging the questionable practices. It was prepared by Ray B. Sitton, an outside director of the Calhoun bank.
Lance was chairman of the bank until January 1977, when he quit to become budget director in the Carter administration.
Questions raised about his financial dealings at Calhoun and at National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta, which he also headed just before going to Washington, forced Lance to resign from the administration in September 1978.
The federal suit, which was brought by the comptroller of the currency and the Securities and Exchange Commission, accused Lance and the two banks of unsafe and unsound banking practices.
It also accused the defendants of "fraud and deceit" against shareholders of NBG and the Calhoun bank. Lance and the banks settled the civil suits, neither admitting nor denying the allegations.
However, Sitton, who was named an outside director of the Calhoun bank as part of the settlement of the federal suit, concluded that shareholders had not "suffered material financial detriment."
Yesterday, officials at both federal agencies privately voiced sharp criticism of the Sitton report. They compared it unfavorably to a similar report released last month by NBG's two outside directors, which generally was praised at the time.
In contrast to the Calhoun bank report, the NBG version agreed with the allegations contained in the federal suit on most matters.
Sitton said in his report that "it is interesting to note that most loans listed in the complaint have been paid in full, and to date Calhoun has suffered no apparent financial loss, with the possible exception of that which may be attributed to preferential interest rates."
However, the federal suit and other documents make clear that the loans to Lance, his family and friends -- some of which had not been paid down for years -- were moved to other banks friendly to Lance at the government's orders.
Loans from those banks were used to pay off the overdue debts of Lance and others to the Calhoun bank.
Sitton said repeatedly in his report that "nothing exists in the.... files" of the Calhoun bank to support the SEC allegations.