Former officers of Old Court Savings and Loan association, saying the troubled thrift's operations have not hurt the state of Maryland, asked a Baltimore judge yesterday to dismiss a $200 million civil suit charging the officers with "the largest financial fraud" in state history.
Attorneys for former Old Court president Jeffrey Levitt and other former Old Court executives also asked Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan to postpone the civil suit until the ongoing state and federal criminal investigations of the thrift association are completed.
In a barrage of legal motions that took up more than 150 typewritten pages, Levitt's attorneys said the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund (MDIF), which now controls Old Court, has not "paid one dollar to any depositor or suffered any damages," and therefore should not be able to recover any money from the $200 million suit that MDIF filed against the thrift in July.
In that civil action, MDIF -- a state agency and Old Court's conservator -- accused Levitt and 25 other defendants with treating "depositors' funds as their own private slush fund" in the "largest financial fraud in the history of the state of Maryland."
MDIF, which is seeking $200 million in punitive damages and an unspecified amount in compensatory damages, was created by the Maryland General Assembly following runs on several savings and loan associations. The runs were touched off in part by reports of alleged mismanagement at Old Court. Deposits at the Baltimore-based thrift, which has about 75,000 depositors, have been frozen for four months.
In documents filed yesterday, attorneys for Levitt urged Kaplan to dismiss the MDIF complaint because Old Court has suffered no actual losses.
"Moreover, it has not been determined whether Old Court will suffer a loss," the attorneys said. "There are projections of losses, but no actual losses. Mere possibilities of future damages are insufficient to recover damages."
Last week, officials of Chevy Chase Savings and Loan, which is managing Old Court's assets on a daily basis, issued a report to Kaplan in which they estimated that Old Court is $175 million in debt. Judge Kaplan said recently that the loss, for which the state might be held liable, could grow to as much as $200 million.
In a companion motion filed yesterday, lawyers for the defendants asked Kaplan to postpone hearing the MDIF complaint until state and federal prosecutors here finish their joint criminal investigation of Old Court and its former owners and directors.
Information disclosed in the civil proceedings, the defendants argued, would diminish the legal protections that the law offers persons accused in criminal cases.
"It is clear that the attorney general's information has already been shared" with MDIF officials, the defendants said, adding that they would be hurt by "cooperation and exchange of information" between the two arms of state government.
"The continuous invisible presence of the attorney general behind MDIF's actions" is already apparent, the defendants said.
In a related development yesterday, the sources said Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs and his staff were weighing a request to Gov. Harry Hughes for an investigation of Merritt Commercial Savings and Loan of Baltimore or Community Savings and Loan of Bethesda, both of which are under state conservatorship.
Before he left last week on a trade mission to Europe, Hughes pledged that the state government would hold accountable those thrift officers whose "unbounding greed" had caused great "fear and frustration" for tens of thousands of savings and loan depositors.
Government sources said yesterday that Hughes and Sachs are committed to that goal, but added that any investigation of Merritt or Community might be delayed because of the resources needed to develop the Old Court investigation.
Filing the motion to dismiss the civil MDIF complaint were Levitt, his wife Karol, and seven corporate partnerships controlled by the Levitts and other defendants.
Three of the partnerships included the name "Pearlstein," an apparent reference to Allan H. Pearlstein, who, like Jeffrey Levitt, owned 41 percent of Old Court.
Walter Otstot, who participated in a number of Ocean City, Md., real estate deals with Levitt, the Levitts and Pearlstein were listed as parties to the motion asking the court to delay the civil case.