Federal regulatory officials have held preliminary discussions with an attorney for Bert Lance about an "enforcement action" that could bar Lance from the business of banking for an unspecified period of time.
Lance's attorney has replied that, "although Mr. Lance is prepared to consent to some sort of enforcement action, he is not willing to be restricted in his future banking activities," according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.
Lance resigned as director of the Office of Management and Budget two months ago amid charges that, while a banker in Georgia, he had misused the assets of two banks he headed. He remains a close friend and sometime adviser to President Carter.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are still investigating his affairs; the SEC's main concern is whether Lance misled or otherwise failed to fulfill his legal obligations to the banks' stockholders.
The memo describes a meeting Nov. 8 between attorneys from the SEC's enforcement division and lawyers representing Lance and the two banks. It was written by Steven Fox of Atlanta, a lawyer for one of the banks, The Calhoun First National, and distributed to the bank's officers and directors.
One of those at the session was Stanley Sporkin, director of the SEC's enforcement division.The memo says that at one point in the discussion, "Mr. Sporkin talked rather strongly about keeping Mr. Lance out of banking at least for some period of time. He said there were egregious abuses and there were serious questions about whether Mr. Lance should be allowed to manage other people's money."
The memo also records a discussion of the Lance investigation conducted last summer by the comptroller of the currency, who regulates national banks. Comptroller John G. Heimann said; at the time he had found no grounds for an indictment of Lance, an assertion on which both Lance and President Carter relied heavily in Lance's defense before he resigned.
But two SEC investigators are quoted by Fox as saying "the comptroller did not have all of the facts and that the comptroller did not have subpoena power, nor did the comptroller take any testimony.
"They said that the SEC had investigated 40 banks and 80 individuals and that it was outrageous for the comptroller to say that Mr. Lance had committed no prosecutable offense."
Three Justice Department senior lawyers are going over all the evidence compiled in the Lance case to see if there is sufficient cause to empanel a grand jury to consider prosecution.
The memo on the Nov. 8 meeting is the clearest evidence to date on the status of the continuing government investigations of Lance.
Neither Sporkin nor any other SEC official would comment on the memo. Robert Altman, a lawyer from the firm of Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain & Finney, who represented Lance at the Nov. 8 meeting, had no comment.
In addition to the remarks they made about Lance, the memo described the SEC investigators as complaining about a "lack of cooperation" on the part of Lance's trustee, Tom Mitchell.
It shows one of the SEC investigators saying that "one of the key hold-ups is the 47 boxes of documents in Atlanta and locating other Lance records including campaign accounts," and adding that "Mr. Mitchell's lack of cooperation is a serious problem."
It Dalton, Ga. Tom Mitchell's attorney, Erwin Mitchell, who is also his client's cousin, called these assertions "ridiculous and untrue."
He said the SEC had subpoenaed Tom Mitchell's records of all business ventures in which he held an interest of 5 per cent or more. But then, Erwin Mitchell said, the SEC called for "all his personal records from Jan. 1, 1972, to the present."
He said Tom Mitchell has refused to comply with demand for his personal records because the information "is not relevant to the investigation nor permitted under the formal order of investigation."
Altman said that Lance "has not held back anything" from the SEC investigators.
The memo recounting the Nov. 8 meeting describes one SEC attorney as asking early in the session "if Mr. Lance is ready to do anything to make the bank whole," and mentioning that Lance "had written the comptroller and said he will hold Calhoun harmless with respect to its violations."
It is not completely clear what was meanty by making the bank "whole," though some of the charges against Lance had to do with large and persistent "overdrafts" tht he, ran up in the banks he controlled. There were also overdrafts in the name of his wife, and other members of her family the campaign he set up in his unsuccessful try in 1974 for the Democratic nomination for governor in Georgia.
The memo then goes on:
"Mr. Sporkin said that Mr. Lance's position was critical to any settlement falling into place.
"Mr. Altman said that it is a matter between the bank and Mr. Lance, but that maybe an independent committee could investigate the bank and maybe Mr. Lance would agree to be bound by such a report."
It was then that, according to the memo, "Mr. Altman said that although Mr. Lance is prepared to consent to some sort of enforcement action, he is not willing to be restricted in his future banking activities."
Lance remains a principal stockholder in both the Calhoun bank and the National Bank of Georgia, the other bank he ran before joining the Carter administration.
The "overdrafts" Lance and his family ran up at the banks he headed essentially were loans, some of which are still outstanding.
In addition, he ran up heavy debts when he borrowed to buy stock in the National Bank of Georgia, and to make other investments.
This indebtedness of several million dollars was what originally called attention to his case last spring and summer, and it still is a problem for him. Available documents indicate that his total debt service costs in the four months ending next Jan. 31 will be about $600,000.
Lance currently had no job, and says he will announce his plans around the first of the year.