Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia deposited $200,000 in a non-interest-bearing account in the First National Bank of Chicago one month before he obtained a $3.4 million personal loan from the Chicago bank, The Washington Post learned yesterday.
Lance began shoppong for the loan from the Chicago bank on Dec. 2, 1976, the day before Carter officially announced the appointment of his longtime friend and confidant as head of the Office and Management and Budget.
Six days later, on Dec. 8, 1976, the National Bank of Georgia, where Lance was president and a leading stockholder, established a "correspondent" banking relationship with Chicago's First National and opened a $200,000 account.
A spokesman for First National of Chicago. Nicholas Poulos, said the loan was granted to Lance on Jan. 7. 1977. He said the Chicago bank was one of several competing for Lance's business, but could not identify the other institutions.
Lance's chief spokesman, Robert W. Dietsch, described the transaction as perfectly routine, and maintained that, from the Chicago bank's point of view, it looked at the time like "a damn good loan, backed up by plenty of assets and collateral."
According to Poulos, First National of Chicago first approaches Lance's bank in September, 1976, about establishing the correspondent banking relationship.
Speaking for the budget director, Dietsch also insisted that there was "absolutely no connection" between the National Bank of Georgia's opening of a "correspondent" account at the Chicago bank and the Chicago bank's loan to Lance the next month.
Dietsch said Lance "took no part in establishing the correspondent banking relationship," although he acknowledged that Lance, as NBG's chief executive officer, was probably aware of the negotiations that led up to it.
Dietch's statement that there was "absolutely no connection" between the Lance personal loan and the correspondent relationship of the banks was in contradiction with an assertion by Poulos. On Dec. 2. Poulos said officials of Lance's bank "came to us as a result of the correspondent banking relationship [which had been under negotiation] and asked if we would be interested in bidding" on the loan to Lance.
A correspondent banking account is normally opened by one bank with another in order to expand the range of services available in other cities around the country to the first bank's customers.
Lance's bank, however, already had such an arrangement with another Chicago bank, Continental Illinois National Bank & Turst Co., and, according to an officer at that bank, this relationship has remained active.
At issue is whether the $200,000 deposit could be construed as a so-called compensating balance for the loan made to Lance. In recent years, the office of the comptroller of the currency, which regulates national banks, has referred several compensating balance cases to the Justic Department for prosecution as a potential misapplication of bank funds.
An attorney in the comptroller's office said there are five tests that he applies in determining whether a case should be referred to Justice. He said all five tests must be met:
The borrowing bank officer gets an advantage over an ordinary borrower ' normally a lower interest rate.
The correspondent account opened in the lending bank remains dormant, showing no reduction in the balance.
The correspondent account does not receive interest.
The correspondent bank is performing no service for the depositing bank, or service so insignificant as to make the size of the account suspect.
The size of the correspondent account is sufficient to offset the advantage, such as a low interest rate, enjoyed by the borrowing officer.
Lance could not be reached directly for comment. Dietsch said he doubted the budget director would want to answer any of a number of detailed questions submitted by The Washington Post, and in any case would not be available for an interview. Dietsch responded to many of the questions about Lance's financial dealings by simply saying "I don't know." He said he would submit some of them to Lance, but added:
"I just don't think he's going to answer any of these questions.He's talked enough about this. He feels his finances are a matter of public record. He has the full confidence of the President . . . As for all of these little things, well, he's busy."
The Senate Government Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. today on another aspect of Lance's finances: the proposed removal of his commitment to sell some $200,000 shares of National Bank of Georgia stock by Dec. 31. President Carter asked the committee last week to remove the deadline in light of the sharp drop in the price of the bank's stock in recent months.
Lance, whose holdings represent a 16 per cent interest in the Atlanta bank, acquired most of it in 1975 and 1976, reportedly paying an average of more than $17 for each of the 190,867 shares he accumulated then. But the bank reported recently that it was writing off $2.3 million in soured real estate loans in addition to the $500,000 it had already checked off as bad loans earlier in the year.
Traded over the counter, NBG stock has consequently dropped as low as $.50 a share in recent weeks. Lance told the Senate committee last Friday that he would lose about $1.6 million if he were forced to sell now.
Lance bought most of his stock with the help of a $2.7 million loan he got in 1975 from New York's Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., with which the National Bank of Georgia has also had a correspondent banking relationship.
The OMB director-designate got his $3.4 million loan from Chicago's First National to pay off the New York bank loan and, Dietsch said, to acquire more NBG stock (through an option recently exercised by Lance's trustee, Dalton. Ga., businessman Thomas Mitchell) and to pay for accumulated interest and other expenses.
The spokeman for the Chicago bank said the NBG account there "has been active only in the sense they have a balance with us," Since the funds were deposited in December, he said, "the balance hasn't changed."
He strenuously denied, however, that there was any quid pro quo between the initial deposit by NBG and the subsequent loan to Lance. "You're barking up the wrong tree," he said.
Poulos said that First National of Chicago has provided "advisory services" for the Georgia bank on two occasions "relating to such matters as cash management" and one "referral."
Lance's spokesman, Dietsch, took sharp exception to a report published in the New York Times quoting an anonymous source as asserting that the loan to Lance was "so favorable that it defers interest payments."
"As far as I know, that is absolutely not true," Dietsch said, referring any further questions along that line to Lance's trustee, Mitchell. "I'm not going to ask Lance about it," Dietsch said. "He's not going to talk about it. This is columnist [William Safire] quoting an anonymous source."
Mitchell could not be reached for comment.
Dietsch also said he did not know the exact terms of the Chicago bank loan, such as the interest rate,or of a $443.466 loan from the United American Bank of Knoxville, Tenn.
Not long after Lance came to Washington, The Washington Post has also learned, he arranged a meeting between the head of the Knoxville bank and the Secretary of the Treasury, W. Michael Blumenthal.
In March,an aide to Lance asked Blumenthal to meet with Jake Butcher, chairman of the United American Bank of Knoxville, and his brother, C. H. Butcher Jr., who is chairman of the city and County Bankof Knoxville and of the United American Bank in Nashville.
A Treasury spokesman said the meeting was arranged so that Jake Butcher could tell Blumenthal about the International Energy Exposition planned for Knoxville in 1982. Butchers, who is chairman of the exposition, could not be reached for comment.
C. H. Butcher, Jake's brother, had a slightly different version of the reason for the meeting, which lasted 30 to 45 minutes. "We asked for the appointment," he said in a telephone interview, "because we had never met him [Blumenthal], and he does regulate our business as Treasury Secretary."
Dietsch, when asked about the meeting, said that he thought Butcher was there to promote interest in the energy exposition.
But Blumenthal, according to a spokesman, did not know the reason for the meeting when it took place in March, and he still does not understand what it was all about. The spokesman added that Blumenthal was not aware at the time of the meeting that Lance had a loan outstanding at Jake Butcher's bank.
Lance's total liabilities of $5.3 million, which he made public in January when he joined OMB, included another loan from yet another correspondent bank. This one is for $185,000 from Citizens and Southern National Bank in Atlanta. The most recent edition of Polk's World Bank of Georgia as a correspondent of Citizens and Southern.
Citizens and Southern would not comment either on its dealings with Lance or with the National Bank of Georgia.