Federal regulators, citing what they called outrageous expenditures, announced yesterday that they are seeking to recover $30.8 million from the former chairman of the now defunct CenTrust Bank of Miami, David L. Paul, and to bar him permanently from the banking industry.
Paul's "insatiable vanity and greed" were the principal causes of the failure of the $8.2 billion institution, said Timothy Ryan, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Paul's lavish spending with taxpayer-insured deposits "exceed virtually anything this agency has encountered before," said senior OTS enforcement attorney Faith Hochberg. She said gold covered everything in Paul's office from ceilings to toilet pipes.
Officials acted to freeze Paul's assets and gave him 10 days to post the $30.8 million as security.
Federal officials have estimated that CenTrust's losses will ultimately cost taxpayers $1.7 billion. The institution, a state-chartered savings bank, was the 23rd-largest thrift in the nation when it was seized by federal officials Feb. 2.
The action against Paul is similar to administrative proceedings underway against Charles H. Keating Jr., former chairman of Lincoln Savings and Loan in Irvine, Calif., seeking $40.9 million, and actions taken earlier this month seeking $24 million from Thomas Spiegel, the deposed chief of Colombia Savings and Loan of Beverly Hills, Calif., whose alleged excesses come close to rivaling Paul's.
As public anger has been mounting over the burgeoning cost of the savings and loan cleanup, the OTS has been using administrative charges against major S&L figures because it can move more quickly on its own than by going through the courts.
OTS can use this route to order repayment, levy civil penalties and remove officers. The actions can be appealed to federal court.
In addition, OTS can file suit to recover thrift assets and turn over evidence of criminal activity to the Justice Department.
OTS officials said they have evidence that Paul has diverted millions of dollars to accounts in other countries.
Paul was ordered to submit a sworn statement within five days identifying all his assets outside the country and a certified statement of his net worth.
The order also says Paul may not sell or transfer any assets except for reasonable living expenses of less than $5,000.
OTS officials said the charges were sent by registered mail to Paul's last known address in Miami. Paul's lawyer, Aubrey Harwell of Nashville, said he had not seen the charges yesterday. He declined to reveal his client's whereabouts.
The Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly has been investigating links between CenTrust and a "daisy chain" operation that allegedly involved Keating and junk bond king Michael R. Milken. Paul bought hundreds of millions of dollars of Milken's junk bonds and participated in several transactions with Keating.
In Paul's case, regulators are seeking the return of what Ryan termed a $15 million "legal slush fund" set up by Paul and other officers and directors at CenTrust in lieu of insurance for suits brought against them.
The OTS is also seeking repayment of $4.9 million in CenTrust contributions to a retirement plan created primarily for Paul, which it said was transferred offshore and managed by longtime Paul associate Edward D.G. Davies, a financier who served as a director of the British investment trust formerly controlled by inside trader Ivan F. Boesky.
Other items for which the OTS is seeking money from Paul:
$515,000 in life insurance premiums paid by CenTrust, on which the beneficiary was Paul's wife, not the institution as authorized by the board of directors.
$456,900 for a security system and guards at Paul's home.
$300,00 in design services on Paul's home and yacht.
A bonus and salary increase of $393,000 paid to Paul in October 1989, after a fiscal year in which CenTrust had posted a $119 million loss.
Regulators also are seeking to recover losses stemming from Paul's purchases of Oriental rugs, crystal, gold and other valuables.
Included in CenTrust's $29 million art collection -- some of it "stored" on the walls of Paul's home, according to the regulators -- was a Rubens painting that Paul purchased from Sotheby's auction house for $13.2 million, at the time the highest price ever paid for a Rubens.
The Resolution Trust Corp., the federal agency selling off the assets of failed thrifts, has reported a loss of more than $4 million so far on the sale of CenTrust artwork.
Paul's spending habits, both at CenTrust and in his personal affairs, were lavish enough to make a big splash even in Miami, a city awash in the nouveau riches of the drug trade. The 47-story CenTrust Tower is a jewel of the downtown skyline.
In the executive suite, waiters served coffee from silver trays; in the dining room, lunch was spread out on Porthault linens.
In June, the government sold CenTrust's deposits and 31 Florida branches to Great Western Financial Corp. of Beverly Hills.