April, 1974. LaBelle Lance and her brother, C. Barker David, spend $40,000 to refurbish "Eagle's Nest," a cottage on the Lance farm called "Lancelot." The remodelling is a gift" to Bert Lance, paid for by overdrawing David's account at Calhoun (Ga.) First National Bank, where Lance is the chairman.
Nov. 3, 1975. Jack Mullins, manager of Lance's unsuccesful 1974 gubernatorial bid, borrows $40,000 unsecured from National Bank of Georgia. The loan is arranged by Lance, the bank's chairman. Mullins later says the loan was for "personal investments," but the money went to pay overdrafts in a Calhoun account caused by paying down overdue Lance campaign debts at other banks.
Jan. 7, 1977. Budget director-designate Bert Lance files a personal financial statement with President-elect Jimmy Carter showing liabilities of $5.3 million and a net worth of $2.6 million. But his liabilities, it turns out later were "at least" $6.6 million plus contingent liabilities of at least $1.8 million.
The Bert Lance who emerges from the 90-page federal complaint filed last week against him and the two Georgia banks is a man on a treadmill of debt.
The general details of Lance's finances became known last summer, just before he resigned as director of the Office of Management and the Budget.
In the eight months since then, attorneys and investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission have carefully traced Lance's complex financial dealing during the years before he came to Washington.
The SEC went to extraordinary lengths to document Lance's actions. An SEC accountant actually traced thousands of individual transactions between Lance, his friends, relatives, and banks, a process known as cash flow analysis. In the complaint, Lance and the two banks, were accused of eral banking and securities laws by the SEC and its co-plaintiff the comptroller of the currency.
Lance and the banks signed consent decrees, neither admitting nor denying the allegations of the suit. All the defendants agreed to take certain remedial actions.
The results of the SEC's cash flow analysis wre reviewed in January by officials of the criminal frauds section of the Justice Department. A federal grand jury in Atlanta is currently hearint the SEC findings -- along with new evidence turned up by FBI.
It will decide whether Lance -- and perhaps others -- should face criminal charges.
In a civil complaint like the one filed against Lance by the SEC, the findings need be supported only by the preponderance of evidence. By contrast, in a criminal case, the guilt of the defendant must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal experts reviewing the SEC's complaint suggest a number of broad areas that the government could consider pursuing in the Lance criminal investigation. But they emphasize that the key element is the intent of the principals.
The areas of possible criminal prosecution mentioned by experts include misapplying bank funds as to cause injury to that bank, fraud by mail or wire, securities fraud, knowingly making false statements to a financial institution to influence the actions of that institution making false bank entries, reports or transactions, and willfully making false laoan and credit applications.
Last fall, as the independent SEC probe of Lanc intensified, it became clear at the more politically sensitive Justice Department that it, too, would have to become involved.
Indeed, the comptroller's office had already referred to Justice for possible criminal prosecution its findings on Lance's personal use of NBC's Plans.
Attorney General Griffin B. Bell is a personal friend of Lance, a fellow Georgian. He even owned stock in NBG, which puts him in the ranks of the shareholders who, the SEC alleges, were defrauded and deceived by Lance.
Because of this relationship, Bell put a three-man panel of career Justice Department employes between himself and the investigation. Ultimately, however, the decision on whether to seek an indictment against Lance will be made by top Justice officials, sources there say. If it is not made by Bell himself, it probably will be made by another Carter administration political appointee, Benjamin R. Civiletti, the acting deputy attorney general.
At the center of the SEC complaint is the allegation that Lance was a "dominating influence" not only over NBG and the Calhoun bank but also over a network of more than a half-dozen banks in northwest Georgia.
"Lance had his representatives placed on the boards of directors, " the complaint states, "assisted some banks in arranging correspondent relationships with various banks, selected top officers to manage these banks, and arranged for financing the purchase of various bank securities for himself or his close associates."
Some were national banks, which are regulated by the comptroller of the currency, while others were state-chartered banks, which are overseen by state banking authorities and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The complaint alleges that these agencies werer deceived by Lance. It also suggests that they were ineffective in policing the banks controlled by Lance. Moreover, Lance was able to take advantage of the lack of coordination between state and national bank regulators by shifting unpaid debts and overdrafts by relatives and friends between the two types of banks.
The complaint shows that Lance's finances, and those of family and friends, many of whose personal affairs he directed, were based on overdrafts, unpayable loans, and kited checks.
Lance may have risked criminal sanctions to live far beyond his means by submitting false financial statements for loans. "Without the guaranty of Lance," the complaint says, "the banks would not have made the loans."