Former Attorney General Griffin B. Bell ignored evidence that top E.F. Hutton executives orchestrated a widespread check-kiting scheme when he blamed mid-level managers in a defamatory report, the lawyer for one of those managers says.
Bell, a defendant in a defamation suit brought by one of six branch managers he criticized in the 1985 report about the check-kiting scheme, was trying to shift the blame away from top management, the lawyer argued Tuesday in U.S. District Court."He cleared the company, he cleared the management and put the blame out on regional managers and branch managers," Stephen G. Milliken, a lawyer for former Hutton manager John M. Pearce, said as the defamation trial got under way.
Bell, a private attorney in Atlanta, was retained by Hutton to conduct the internal investigation after the company pleaded guilty May 2, 1985, to 2,000 counts of mail and wire fraud for manipulating its checking accounts.
The company admitted writing checks for amounts exceeding money in the accounts, thereby giving itself interest-free loans. The accounts were replenished before the overdrawn checks cleared, enabling Hutton to make extra money by "riding the float."
Hutton, which is now part of Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., agreed to pay a $2 million fine and reimburse banks that were victims of the check-kiting scheme.