Old Court Savings and Loan Association made $5.8 million in unsecured loans to officers and directors of the company and their associates and also allowed them to overdraw their accounts by $5.7 million, according to Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs.
According to documents filed to support the state's case for naming a conservator to run the collapsing thrift, Old Court also paid its owners millions of dollars of fees and invested too heavily in commercial loans and commercial construction loans in violation of state rules.
Sachs made the charges early yesterday in a request to Maryland Circuit Court Judge Martin B. Greenfeld -- which he granted -- to put the Baltimore institution in conservatorship. Depositors launched a run on the institution Thursday after reports that the company's chief executive was being replaced by John D. Faulkner Jr., a board member of the private insurance fund that backs the savings and loan and a veteran savings executive.
On Feb. 27 the Maryland Sav- ings-Share Insurance Corp., the private pool that insures deposits up to $100,000 at Old Court and 101 other Maryland S&Ls, began proceedings aimed at issuing cease and desist orders against the Baltimore-based institution to force it to correct its "unsafe and unsound" practices, Sachs said in the documents. On March 22, MSSIC made formal charges in a letter. On April 23, Old Court agreed to change its operating practices.
But the action came too late to save the institution, which in the three years since it was purchased by Jeffrey A. Levitt and Alan Pearlstein grew from a $140 million association that made mostly home mortage loans to an institution with $873 million in assets, nearly 70 percent of which were commercial, construction and land development loans.
Its depositors launched a quiet run on Old Court in March and April -- after the collapse of the private insurance fund in Ohio -- and a panicky run started last Thursday after the institution announced it had changed management under pressure from Maryland.
Many of those depositors had been attracted by Old Court's high interest rates. The institution attracted funds from around the country and was consistently among the savings and loans paying the highest for the funds it needed to make the higher-risk investments.
In the court filing early yesterday morning, Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs said the institution was runnning out of cash to pay its depositors and borrowers. Sachs said Old Court had $190 million in long-term deposits coming due within 90 days, commitments to disburse $70 million to builders this summer and operating expenses of $1 million a month.
The savings and loan already had borrowed $50 million from the Federal Reserve System, the nation's central bank, and had exhausted its ability to borrow much more.
Sachs, in the court filing, accused Old Court of a wide variety of violations, including:
* Permitting overdrafts that on Jan. 31 totalled $5.7 million in 30 NOW accounts owned by officers and directors and members of their families and companies controlled by Old Court insiders.
* Making at least 20 unsecured loans to insiders and their companies that totalled $5.8 million on Jan. 31.
* Paying consulting and management fees to insiders and their companies. Levitt, who regulators forced out as chief executive May 2 but who remains president, was paid $1.96 million in fees last year. Levitt Pearlstein Management Co. received $630,000, and Pearlstein Levitt Investments was paid $230,000.
Old Court's net worth -- the difference between its assets and its liabilities -- had declined to 3.19 percent of savings on March 31, well below the 4.66 percent level required by MSSIC rules, according to an affidavit filed with Sach's request by Patrick McCracken, assistant secretary of MSSIC.
McCracken also said that Old Court's commercial, construction and unimproved land loans were equivalent to 69.63 percent of the institution's total savings on March 31, although MSSIC rules put a 40 percent ceiling on such loans.
McCracken said that construction loans alone accounted for nearly 29 percent of the institution's savings, although the MSSIC ceiling is 25 percent.
Martin Becker, a MSSIC senior financial analyst, said in another affidavit that the institution routinely "refinanced" unsecured loans that were delinquent by extending the date the loan was to be repaid. He said such delinquent loans totaled $1 million.
He also said the institution often failed to document loans properly and included an example of one loan on which the borrower never signed the loan agreement, but Old Court continued to push back the repayment date because the borrower never paid on time.
"My review of Old Court's records indicates that during 1984 and 1985, Old Court made numerous loans without the underwriting and documentation required by the Maryland Division of Savings and Loan Associations' regulations," Becker said.
He also said that the 3.19 percent net worth the institution reported at the end of March is overstated because the institution included profits from sales of real estate on which Old Court took back mortgages that exceeded 80 percent of the purchase price. According to accounting principles, Becker said, if an institution that sells the real estate takes back such a big mortgage, the institution cannot record the profit from selling the property.
On April 23, MSSIC and Old Court signed an "operating agreement" that required MSSIC's prior consent before Old Court could make new commercial, construction or unimproved land loans; required Old Court to collect all unsecured loans and all existing overdrafts of NOW and checking accounts and prohibited any future overdrafts.
The agreement also required MSSIC's approval for all consulting, management, brokerage, finder's or similar fees to any insiders.
The insurance fund insisted that the association's board remove Levitt as chief executive and operating officer on May 2. Last week a new "managing officer" was appointed to run the institution, triggering the subsequent run.
When the Old Court conservator was appointed, depositors were limited to withdrawals of no more than $1,000 a month until regulators and MSSIC come up with a permanent solution to its problems.