President Carter's close friend and former budget director Bert Lance was charged by two federal agencies yesterday with a series of violations of U.S. securities and banking laws in a suit filed in federal district court in Alanta.
In essence, the agencies said that, while heading two banks in Georgia, Lance made unsecured and shaky loans to himself, his relatives and various business and political associates - loans which went beyond normal banking practices and jeopardized the soundness of the banks. The agencies also accused him and the banks of various misrepresentations in connection with these loans.
Lance and the two banks he headed before joining the Carter administration - Calhoun (Ga.) First National Bank and the National Bank of Georgia - signed consent decrees in whihc they accepted certain restrictions on their future activies without either admitting or denying the allegations against them.
Among other things, Lance agreed not to become involved "in the management or control of any bank" for the next six months, and to give 60 days' written notice to the regulatory agencies before becoming involved in banking in the future. The 60 days' notice is intended to give the agencies time to intervene if they choose.
Yesterday's action was brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Comptroller of the Currency.
Lance could still be subject to civil suits by stockholders of the two banks or others complaining they were harmed by his actions. In addition, his activities are being examined by a federal grand jury in Atlanta. It will decide whether there may have been violations of criminal statutes, as opposed to the civil violations of which he was accused yesterday.
Many of these irregular practices were exposed in the investigations by the controller and others that led to Lance's resignation from the Carter administration last September.
Yesterday's complaint says, among other things, that:
"Calhoun and Lance engaged in a course of business which included financial irregularities and unsafe and unsound banking practices."
These practices "constituted a potential material risk to the financial stability of Calhoun."
They included "a pattern of related-party transactions by Lance and certain of his relatives; substantial and prolonged overdrafting; numerous questionable loans to officers and directors of the bank and [others] related to such persons," and "the making of misleading entries on Calhoun's books and records."
"The extensions of credit in part resulted in severe liquidity and related problems at Calhoun. In order to create the appearance that these problems had been eliminated, Calhoun engaged in a series of undisclosed or misrepresented transactions . . . In certain instances, these transactions were concealed by the making of misleading entries on Calhoun's books."
The complaint says the money from the loans Lance arranged was used partly to meet his own "cash needs," partly to finance his unsuccessful 1974 Georgia gubernatiorial campaign, and partly to sustain relatives who were in shaky financial condition.
Yesterday's consent decree is the second Lance has signed in recent weeks. In an [WORD ILLEGIBLE] SEC action last month, Lance and others were charged with violating the securities law by trying in secret to take over Washington-based Financial General Bank-shares, Inc.
Earlier this month, Lance, in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, assailed the news media for what he called misleading reporting in his case. Most of his charges had to do with reports of his activities since leaving the administration, however.
Late yesterday, Lance's office in Calhoun issued a press release, which stated inpart that "virtually all of these charges were raised and dicussed fully last fall at the hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Mr. Lance's statement to the committee continues to reflect his position as to these allegations which have - after some eight additional months of exhaustive investigatory work - again been repeated in detail here."
Lance is currently visiting Australia on business, his Washington attorney said last night.
Yesterday's suit alleges that Lance regularly overstated his net worth on personal financial statements, including one submitted to President-elect Carter dated Jan. 7, 1977. Lance showed liabilities of $5.3 million, but the suit says his liabilities were $6.6 million, which reduced his net worth accordingly.
Lance also overstated his net worth in 1974 by about $1.2 million when he ran for governmor, according to the suit.
These statements were relled on by banks that lent large sums to Lance's hard-pressed relatives. "Without the guaranty of Lance," the suit said, "the banks would not have made the loans to Lance's relatives."
The suit states that Lance 'maintained virtually absolute control over the financial affairs" of most of his family, without having written power of attorney.
Lance's wife, LaBelle, her mother, brothers and others close to Lance were each allowed to run up hundreds of htousands of dollars in overdrafts and loans at Calhoun and the National Bank of Georgia, and most of them had no means of paying even the interest.
For example, the complaint says that LaBelle's brother, Clauda Barker David, borrowed about $254,000 for personal and unsuccessful business reasons. "Frequently, the checks drawn on C.B. David's accounts to make the interest payments created further overdrafts in such accounts," the complaint says.
David Lance, Bert's son, when in his early 20s, ran up loans at the Clahoun bank totalling $99,236, which were constantly being restructured to facilitate payment. He regularly overdrew his checking account at Calhoun by amounts as high as $11,000. "In May 1977," the complaint says, "Calhoun reduced the interest rate [on the loans] when David Lance became an officer at NBG."
In his testimony about his finances last summer before the Senate Govenrment Affairs Committee, Lance said that while Georgia Transportation Commisioner under the Gov. Jimmy Carter, he continued to collect his salary from the Calhoun bank. But he said, he contributed his state paycheck to charity.
The complaint raises questions about this claim.
It says that 1965 to 1976, the Calhoun bank, "at the direction of Lance," extended a series of unsecured loans totaling $130,000 to Jack Mullins, a local pharmacist and friend of Lance.One loan, for $33,250 made in January 1975 was used to buy 875 of the Calhoun bank's commons shares which are being held by two charitable institutions.
The complaints says the the stock was given to the institutions by Lance "in order to return to the state an equivalent value of the salary he earned in 1973 as head of the Department fo Transportation."
Mullins "was heavily in debt," the complaint states, and "often paid interest on his loans to Colhoun by overdrafting his check account."
Mullins' loans, which eventually totaled about $300,000 were switched fto NBG when Lance moved there as president in 1975. SOme of Mullin's loans were used to pay off Lance's campaign debt rom his gurbernatiorial bid, the complaint days.
The complaint says that Mullins' financial statement for hte laons from Calhoun and NBG "overstaked his assets." and that he could not make the loan payments.
The complaint does not state how the Mullins loans were rapid or what happened to the stock Lance had given to charity. But one source close to Lance says that he used some of the funds lent to him recently by an Arab associate to pay off the Mullins loans, among other s.
In 1975, when the Camptroller of the Currency cracked down on Calhoun's lending policies and the over drafts, the loans were moved rom that bank to other friendly banks in order to clean up Calboun's books.
But, says the complaint, "notwithstanding Calhoun's representations to the comptroller, the overdraft practices continued."
The complaint states that Lance would draw a check on his various accounts which "frequently lacked sufficient funds to cover the check, to pay, among other things, principal and interest on loans to himself, his relatives and to pay personal living expenses. The check was then covered by a check drawn on another of the accounts controlled by Lance.This account, like the first one, in a number of instances, had insufficient funds to cover the check drawn on it."
The complaint cites several such instances of alleged check kiting, where days would pass without Lance's checks being covered. Often, checks shutting between Lance accounts at NBG and Calhoun were left unposted for days until sufficient funds could be deposited.
At other times, Lance's friends and associates made loans on his behalf, which were arranged by Lance as a bank officer at NBG or Calhoun.
Lance arranged correspondent relationship for Calhoun with, among others, Fulton National Bank in Atlanta. Bank funds from Calhoun were deposited at Fulton, and Lance and his associate took a big personal loss there.
When Lance went to NBG, Calhoun switched its business to that bank and, "as part of the consideration . . . Lance arranged for NBG to extend loans to various Calhoun directors," the complaint says.