The comptroller of the currency yesterday charged former Office of Management and Budget director Bert Lance and his Georgia bank, Calhoun First National Bank, with not disclosing their alleged check kiting and questionable loans to Lance, his relatives and friends.
A supporting document filed with the suit in U.S. District Court here said Lance "obtained direct and indirect personal financial benefits from and often at the expense of CFNB."
Lance is chairman of the bank and his son, David, is president.
The suit marks the first official government allegation that Lance and his bank violated federal banking laws, although its charges mirror those made in a confidential report by the comptroller's office that was leaked to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in late June.
Shortly after disclosure of the charges in the leaked report, Lance resigned from his position as chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party. Last week, Lance filed suit against the comptroller's office, accusing it of illegally making the report public. The agency has denied the charge.
Lance's Atlanta lawyer, Gary Grindler, said, "We have not seen the lawsuit. We have only been advised by telephone that it was filed. As a result, we can not and do not have any comment."
Calhoun Bank spokesman Michael Jones also said the bank, which is a separate defendant in the suit, would have no response.
The suit alleges that the violations took place between 1981 and 1985. That period began just after Lance was acquitted on all but three counts of a massive bank-fraud indictment in 1981. The jury deadlocked on the other three charges, which were dismissed.
Those charges led Lance to resign his job as OMB director under President Carter in 1977. Lance remains covered by a civil court agreement springing from that case not to engage in further violations of securities laws.
Technically, the comptroller's suit accuses Lance only of failing to report the questionable practices in filings with the comptroller -- a violation of federal securities law -- not of the illegal practices themselves. It asks for an injunction to force Lance and the bank to cease filing the inaccurate information, to file correct reports in the future and to amend all official bank financial reports to include the transactions that allegedly had not been mentioned.
Ellen Stockdale, a spokeswoman for the comptroller, said the agency has the power to undertake private enforcement actions against Lance's bank concerning the substance of the violations, although she would not say whether such actions are being taken. The comptroller's office cannot bring criminal charges on its own, and the Justice Department had no reaction to the suit.
Specifically, the suit charges that Lance and Calhoun failed to report:
*Twenty-nine separate instances of check-kiting, the practice of using a check drawn on one account to cover checks written on another account. The suit said these amounted to interest-free, unsecured loans to Lance. These transactions, 13 of them in excess of $50,000, gave rise to "significant indebtedness" on the part of Lance and others to the bank, the suit said.
*Six loans from the bank to Lance associates that did not go through normal loan procedures. They exceeded Lance's permitted loan limit as a bank officer, but were used for his benefit, the suit said. Five of the loans were made to Lance's secretary, Jewell Miller, and one was to an associate, Thomas Mitchell. Some of the funds were distributed to the Kris Co., which the suit said is owned and controlled by Lance. Lance's son, David Lance, is president of Kris as well as of the bank. The six loans, two of which were renewed several times at Lance's direction, totaled $237,500. They were repaid.
Separately, the suit said, Lance received three loans totaling $134,000 from the bank that violated the bank's normal lending practices.