Federal savings and loan regulators are used to finding evidence of fast cars, fancy airplanes and flashy offices when they get inside highflying thrifts, but even by the standards of S&L excesses, there is nothing quite like what they've discovered at Columbia Savings and Loan in Beverly Hills, Calif.:
A $40,000 four-wheel-drive Range Rover, a $70,000 BMW, a $73,000 Mercedes Benz and a $150,000 Bentley, all for the personal use of Columbia's now-deposed chief executive Thomas Spiegel.
A $5.6 million Hawker corporate jet, plus a pair of $17 million Gulfstream jets -- aircraft so costly to operate that flying one of them to Europe for a two-week jaunt cost $280,000.
Four vacation condominiums, in three different resorts, bought with $1.8 million of Columbia's money and decorated with another $1.1 million of the thrift's funds for the use of Spiegel, his family and friends.
Bills from Europe's finest luxury hotels, including a $16,519 tab for five nights in the Hotel du Cap on the French Riviera for Spiegel and his wife, and their $6,066 tab for three nights lodging and room service at the Plaza Athena in Paris.
A corporate headquarters on fashionable Wilshire Boulevard so decorated with stonework, leather walls, stainless-steel ceilings and a private gym that it cost $54.7 million to build.
Because no one else wants a building with these features and what regulators call "survival chamber bathrooms with bullet-proof glass and an independent air and food supply," the building will have to be sold at an estimated $29.2 million loss to Columbia, the Office of Thrift Supervision said in an administrative complaint filed against Spiegel last week.
Altogether, the excessive spending adds up to grounds for slapping Spiegel with a $5 million civil penalty and demanding restitution of $53 million of Columbia's money that was allegedly spent for his personal benefit or wasted at his behest, OTS said in its complaint.
The action against Spiegel is part of a new tack taken by OTS against alleged wrongdoing by S&L insiders. Although the agency has the authority to turn evidence of criminal activity over to federal prosecutors and to file civil lawsuits seeking damages for violation of thrift regulations, its newest strategy is to utilize its power to issue administrative complaints.
On its own authority, OTS can kick individuals out of their offices, order restitution or assess civil penalties, all subject to appeal to the federal courts.
The payments demanded from Spiegel are the largest ever sought by the agency. Spiegel's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the OTS complaint.
Under pressure from regulators, Spiegel resigned last December as chief executive of Columbia, the S&L best known for investing depositors' money in junk bonds and its close links to Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.'s junk bond king Michael Milken. Columbia has not been taken over by the government, but OTS officials are closely supervising its operations.
The three jet planes were owned jointly with Drexel Burnham and were frequently used to fly Spiegel and his friend Milken to Columbia's resort condos, the OTS complaint said.
The OTS complaint said there is nothing in Columbia's business records to indicate the S&L had any legitimate business use for either the condominiums or the fleet of aircraft. Flight records show the planes were used for at least $2.4 million worth of personal travel by Spiegel and his family, including three trips to Europe and dozens of flights to airports near the resort condos.
The cars came from a Beverly Hills exotic-auto dealership that was partly owned by Columbia and were provided to Spiegel in return for more than $23.5 million in loans, some of which have already been written off as uncollectable, the government said.
Cars, corporate jets and personal expenses charged to the savings and loan are nothing new, but the investigation of Columbia turned up evidence that the thrift's funds were used to satisfy Spiegel's penchant for personal security.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars went to turn a bathroom in the new headquarters into a virtual bunker, where executives could hole up against riots, war, perhaps even nuclear fallout. And at least $91,000 was spent on an arsenal of exotic weapons -- imported shotguns and rifles, Uzi submachine guns in two calibers, half a dozen other automatic pistols and $4,122 worth of ammunition.
Spiegel returned 19 guns to Columbia a few weeks ago, but at least 40 of the weapons have not been accounted for, the OTS complaint said.
Here are a few of Thomas Spiegel's expenditures, as documented by the Office of Thrift Supervision:
1989 Mercedes 560 SEL
1989 Range Rover
1988 BMW 750IL
1989 Bentley (at right)
The Dorchester in London (at right)
Teh Berkeley in London
The Principe di Savoia in Milan
The Plaza Athenee in Paris
The Hotel du Cap in Antibes, France
Smith & Wesson .44-caliber Magnum, Beneilli Super 90 shotgun, Sako rifle, H&K P-7 automatic pistol, Uzi 9mm, Uzi .45-caliber, Beretta 92F Sig Sauers automatic pistols, P and U series
Park City, Utah
Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Indian Wells, Calif.
Hawker jet, 1985 model, $5.6 million
Gulfstream IV/CS, $16.89 million
Gulfstream IV/ML, $18.6 million
8990 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif., complete with a multi-level gym, stainless steel floors and ceilings, leather walls and "survival chamber bathrooms with bullet-proof glass and an independent air and food supply."