Federal savings and loan regulators, citing a far-reaching decision on Thursday by a federal judge involving Charles H. Keating Jr. and his celebrated Lincoln Savings and Loan, vowed yesterday that accountants, lawyers, appraisers, investment bankers and other professionals will be held responsible for their participation in thrift failures.

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Sporkin on Thursday upheld the government's seizure of Keating's California thrift, ruling that he and his associates were responsible for the "looting of Lincoln" through a series of complex real estate, stock and tax schemes. Sporkin said Keating inflated his salary and drained millions out of Lincoln using tactics "akin to an adult taking candy from a helpless child."

The importance of the decision, said Harris Weinstein, general counsel of the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), is not only that Sporkin decided regulators were "fully justified" in taking over Lincoln, but also that the judge singled out accountants, lawyers, appraisers and investment bankers for contributing to the collapse of Lincoln that it is estimated will cost $2 billion.

"Judge Sporkin is saying that in this case, what was done could not have been done without the help of the professionals," said Weinstein. "When you have highly sophisticated transactions, cloaked with the aura of legality, it's very unlikely it was done without the active assistance of professionals."

Hinting that the agency is preparing to take legal action against professional firms that provided legal and accounting services to Keating, Weinstein and OTS Director Timothy Ryan said Sporkin's ruling will become a road map for regulators and prosecutors contemplating action in thrift failures.

Sporkin formerly was director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Weinstein pointed out. "I believe Judge Sporkin is widely recognized for his expertise," he said. "I would expect his colleagues in the bench and the bar would understand that this opinion is written by someone with valuable experience and understanding."

Ryan said Sporkin "closely reflects our views" in the portion of his decision in which the judge blames lawyers and accountants for at least permitting and perhaps helping Keating to drain money from Lincoln.

In a rhetorical broadside aimed far beyond the Lincoln case, Sporkin asked, "Where were these professionals ... when these clearly improper transactions were being consummated? Why didn't any of them speak up or disassociate themselves from the transactions?

"What is difficult to understand," Sporkin added, "is that with all the professional talent involved (both accounting and legal), why at least one professional would not have blown the whistle?"

Weinstein said thrift regulators have the administrative authority to ban professionals involved in such schemes from working for government-insured thrifts or to prohibit them from practicing before government regulatory agencies.

OTS is in the midst of disciplinary proceedings meant to make Keating and his associates repay $41 million in salaries, bonuses and investment profits that regulators say were obtained through a series of improper transactions. The agency could take action against lawyers and accountants involved in those deals, officials said.

Keating and several of his associates are also targets of a $1.1 billion bank fraud and racketeering case filed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the other federal regulatory agency involved in the thrift cleanup. That case, too, could be expanded to include lawyers, accountants and other professionals, agency sources said.

{Keating, chairman of American Continental Corp., and five other top executives of the Phoenix-based corporation resigned yesterday, Keating's attorney said. American Continental had owned Lincoln before it was seized by regulators.

{"It has become clear that my client must now concentrate all his energy on aggressively defending the legal charges against him,'' attorney Stephen C. Neal said.}