'Woody' Preston back looking into S&LsIt's just like old...

Banking & Finance

September 17, 1992|By David Conn

'Woody' Preston back looking into S&Ls

It's just like old times for Wilbur "Woody" Preston, chairman of the Baltimore law firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston and author of what came to be known as the "Preston Report" on Maryland's 1985 savings and loan crisis. Mr. Preston this week was appointed legal adviser to the new National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement.

The bipartisan commission has been instructed by Congresand the White House to examine recent events in the savings and loan industry, and to suggest legal and regulatory changes by February.

Co-chaired by Andrew F. Brimmer, a former Federal Reserve deputy chairman, and by CSX Corp. Chief Executive Officer John W. Snow, the commission includes six other members and is being directed by James Pierce, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Joining Mr. Preston as assistant legal advisers to the commission are Whiteford associates Gerard J. Gaeng, Lisa A. Kershner and Timothy F. Cox.

Even though he is merely general counsel to the commission, Mr. Preston acknowledged, "It does seem a little 'deja vu-ish.' "

A management reorganization at the venerable Baltimore accounting firm Wolpoff & Co. has left partner Ronald Staines in charge of day-to-day operations, with the title of chief operating officer. Managing partner and co-founder Alvin Wolpoff says Mr. Staines essentially is the new managing partner -- he just won't have the title.

Mr. Wolpoff, 66, has been ill and wanted to speed the transition to new management, although he still works five days a week -- three days at the office and two at home.

Joining Mr. Staines on the executive committee are James Buxbaum, who chairs the committee, David Askin and James Matheny.

They co-manage a firm with about 80 accountants, Mr. Wolpoff said, the second-most among locally owned accounting firms in Baltimore (behind C.W. Amos & Co.).

Mr. Wolpoff has been a fixture in Baltimore's business and cultural community for decades, having served as president of the Center Club for the last six years, as longtime chairman of the University of Maryland Medical System's finance committee and as a board member of Center Stage, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the College of Notre Dame.

Referring to those activities, he said, "It makes you feel real good that you didn't waste your time."

Insurance detectives meeting in Baltimore

Baltimore has been Gumshoe Central this week. The city has been host to a weeklong conference of the International Association of Special Investigative Units, a fancy name for insurance detectives. Co-sponsors of the conference, which featured such juicy seminars as "Avoiding Bad Faith," "Defeating Fraudulent Psychiatric Claims," and "Not so Totally Hidden Videos," include the Maryland Insurance Group and GEICO Corp.

John D. Cole, senior vice president and chief claim officer at the Maryland Insurance Group (parent of Maryland Casualty Co.), had a few words of warning at a luncheon for the insurance investigators, many of whom are former police officers or private eyes.

He advised them to "both aggressively pursue fraud, and at the same time develop high standards of professionalism to make certain that [you're] relying on facts that can adequately support [your] positions."

It may sound like boilerplate, but fraud prevention and detection are crucial to the industry.

Drivers pay 10 percent to 15 percent more for auto insurance because of fraud, according to industry estimates. And the General Accounting Office says that health-care fraud will cost insurers -- and therefore their honest customers -- $70 billion this year. As the old saying goes, $70 billion here and $70 billion there, and soon you're talking real money.

Legg Mason deciding on a new bank analyst

The vigil continues for those waiting for a new banking analyst at Legg Mason Inc. David Penn, who for several years has been the bank analyst at the Baltimore brokerage, has been shifting from research to other areas at Legg.

This summer it appeared that Mr. Penn's shoes would be filled by John A. Heffern, his counterpart at Alex. Brown. Mr. Heffern was ready to follow his predecessor, Kyle P. Legg, to Legg Mason -- and, in fact, the company circulated an internal memo welcoming him to the firm in June.

But sources say Mr. Heffern continued to talk to his employer -- not necessarily about salary -- and decided to stay at Alex. Brown. Neither Mr. Heffern nor Legg Mason would comment.

Harbor Bank of Md.celebrating anniversary

Happy Birthday to Harbor Bank of Maryland, which this week celebrates its 10th anniversary as one of Maryland's only minority-owned and operated banking companies. Expected attendees at a celebration last night at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel included Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

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