Two former chief executives of Beverly Hills Savings and Loan Association, which was seized by the government last April, yesterday blamed each other for its failure, while a House subcommittee also sought to pin responsibility on its auditors, lawyers and state and federal regulators.
Beverly Hills Savings, in Mission Viejo, Calif., was found to be insolvent and was taken over by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board April 24 after the S&L announced it expected a loss of $100 million. That was three years after the first warnings of difficulties were sounded by examiners. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. has pumped $90 million into BHS in the past two months and made a commitment to supply $50 million more in one of the largest S&L rescue operations ever.
Dennis Fitzpatrick was removed as president in April 1984 when BHS was acquired in a hostile takeover by real estate developer Paul Amir. Yesterday, he blamed his preoccupation with fighting Amir for preventing him from carrying out a five-year plan to pull BHS out of the recession that battered the thrift industry in 1981-82.
Fitzpatrick's plan consisted of turning BHS into a full-service real estate financing concern and generating high fee income and asset growth. BHS's assets, in fact, grew eightfold to $3 billion between 1979 and 1984. He insisted his operations, which included many equity participation loans, had been approved at every stage by auditors and lawyers.
In response to questions by Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) of the House oversight and investigations subcommittee, Fitzpatrick denied the investments were risky, or that he had ever inflated the value of real estate on the books. On other matters, Fitzpatrick frequently pleaded ignorance.
Fitzpatrick criticized auditors for evaluating BHS's assets on a "fire sale basis . . . as the detritus of a year of mismanagement," a reference to Amir's time in charge of BHS before it was seized. Amir, whose testimony followed, called Fitzpatrick "a poor businessman who has the grandeur sic of being an international banker. That's what happened to BHS."
He claimed that Fitzpatrick had lost $3.8 million in a London investment. Amir also charged that Fitzpatrick himself had a conflict of interest in the form of a 1 percent ownership in the Intercontinental Hotel in San Diego in which BHS invested $23 million. Fitzpatrick was asked to respond to Amir's charges in writing.
Executives of Coopers & Lybrand -- BHS's third auditor in 90 days -- testified that the S&L was indeed engaged in high risk ventures. It expects additional writedowns when it completes its 1984 audit in July. The auditors confirmed the subcommittee's finding that BHS often put up 100 percent of the cash for the development of apartment buildings -- the real estate firm put up none -- but received only a second or third deed of trust and sometimes none in exchange.
In a prepared statement, subcommittee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, "The most disturbing thing is that all of this happened with the apparent longtime knowledge of internal auditors, external auditors, respected law firms and federal and state regulators. Yet the BHS managers were permitted to continue their activities unabated . . . until the bank board concluded that BHS was 'out of control.' "