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Thomas Spiegel Found Innocent of Charges Relating to Failed Thrift

December 13, 1994

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Thomas Spiegel, former chief of the failed Columbia Savings & Loan, was acquitted Monday of felony charges in a case that alleged he looted millions from the Beverly Hills thrift.

The case against Spiegel, 48, began in June 1992 with a 55-count indictment but U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi tossed most of them out during the seven-week trial. The jury began deliberating the remaining three counts Friday afternoon and returned its verdict Monday morning.

″The process leaves me with mixed emotions,″ Spiegel said in a statement released by his attorneys.

″The not guilty verdict reaffirms my faith in our constitutional system of criminal justice, including both the judge and jury. At the same time, this case never should have been brought. This has been a painful ordeal for me and my family.″

Spiegel still faces administrative charges from the Office of Thrift Supervision. The OTS will reach a decision within a few weeks on whether it will hear the case considering Spiegel’s acquittal in criminal court, said agency spokesman William Fulwider. The OTS hearing began in 1992 but was interrupted by the criminal trial.

If found guilty by the OTS, Spiegel could face penalties including restitution of $40 million and a prohibition from the banking industry.

Spiegel’s attorney, Brad Brian, said the government was simply using his client as a scapegoat for the financial excesses of the 1980s.

The indictment of Spiegel, once the highest-paid thrift boss in the country, stemmed from accusations that he illegally squandered millions in Columbia Savings funds on lavish guns, cars, a resort condo and other benefits on himself.

The three counts focused on an alleged attempt by Spiegel to secretly grab for himself an investment opportunity that grew out of a $2 billion financial deal in which Columbia was a major investor.

Charges that were dropped during the course of the case included eight felony counts that accused Spiegel of causing the savings and loan to spend $1 million buying and furnishing a Palm Springs-area condominium for the exclusive use of his family.

Nine charges also were dropped that related to Spiegel’s alleged granting of improper loans to Santa Barbara auto dealer Howard Schneider.

Federal regulators seized Columbia Savings in 1991 at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $1.2 billion.

During the 1980s, Columbia invested heavily in the high-yield bonds popularized by Spiegel’s friend and mentor, Drexel Burnham Lambert financier Michael Milken. It became the nation’s most profitable thrift, with earnings peaking at $194 million in 1987, until the junk bond market collapsed.

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