McMillen defends interceding with regulator for S&L Congressman says he would do same for any constituent.

November 07, 1991|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Evening Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- Maryland Rep. Tom McMillen today strongly defended his contacts with federal regulators on behalf of a failing Annapolis savings and loan whose investors included one of the congressman's business associates and political supporters.

McMillen, D-4th, described as "misleading" an article in today's Washington Post that reported he secretly taped a meeting he had last year with a federal regulator on behalf of the S&L, which is in his district.

The article said McMillen asked at that meeting whether Annapolis lawyer Edward O. Wayson Jr. would be able to avert a federal takeover of First Federal Savings and Loan of Annapolis by raising some $12 million. In 1988, Wayson invested $180,000 in a paging business owned by McMillen and is described in the article as a campaign fund-raiser for McMillen.

Wayson's attorney, Dale Cooter, said today his client was one of many investors in First Federal. Wayson's stake was "just under 5 percent" and he lost it all when the S&L was taken over last year, according to Cooter, who said he could not disclose the dollar amount of Wayson's investment.

According to a tape of McMillen's meeting with Jack Ryan, regional director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, McMillen said, "I know Wayson. I know some of the management folk. And I know, I think, they could probably raise the money. The problem is if they raise $12 million whether there is a reasonable chance" ++ the S&L would stay open, McMillen told Ryan.

The Post said McMillen made the tape available to its reporters.

The meeting in Ryan's Atlanta office occurred after McMillen's -- office had twice contacted the federal agency by telephone, once on Feb. 13 and again on March 29, the article said.

Ryan told the Post he did not feel pressured by McMillen. He said he told McMillen that Wayson's plan to save First Federal of Annapolis probably would not be approved because the S&L was "in the tank."

Ryan said he did not know he was being taped and said he was "outraged" that McMillen had done so. McMillen said Georgia law permits such secret taping of conversations.

McMillen said his meeting with Ryan was incidental to his attendance at a convention in Atlanta. He told the Post that after meeting with Ryan he never made any other contacts on behalf '' of First Federal.

In a statement issued this morning, McMillen said the Post article "is misleading by implying that this institution received any special treatment."

"I will make inquiries to federal agencies for any constituent. This institution had thousands of depositors,employees and investors, and they were in trouble," McMillen said. "In this case, I had one meeting with thrift regulators and asked 10 questions and for one phone number.

"I made a tape of the conversation because I was distrustful of federal regulators," McMillen said. "I was a constant critic of the Office of Thrift Supervision [and] was concerned that my meeting would be misrepresented since I had no witnesses. If I had anything to hide I certainly wouldn't have played a tape of the meeting to the Washington Post."

McMillen noted that, during a House floor debate on savings and loan legislation, "I voted against institutions writing off goodwill that would have given relief to thrifts like First Annapolis."

McMillen told the Post that First Federal of Annapolis' management asked him to meet with Ryan. Cooter, Wayson's attorney, said Wayson did not ask McMillen to meet with Ryan.

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