Bankers Dozin'

Testimony at the governor's criminal trial and a new civil complaint suggest that First Interstate helped Symington dupe other lenders

The pension funds allege that while Symington, Cockerham and First Interstate Bank were hiding negative financial information, Symington was projecting an upbeat image.

Symington's gubernatorial campaign trumpeted his purportedly successful career as a developer.

He crafted a similar image for the pension funds.
On May 4, 1990, Symington gave the pension funds a personal financial statement that said he was worth $11.9 million.

On June 29, 1990, Symington, First Interstate and the pension funds met to sign the papers that would transfer $7.2 million from the pension funds to Symington's Mercado partnership, which in turn would pay off most of First Interstate's $8.4 million construction loan.

Prior to signing the papers, Symington recertified that his May 4, 1990, statement showing a net worth of $11.9 million was accurate.

The pension funds allege a conspiracy of silence kept them from learning:
* Symington had defaulted on the Alta Mesa loan three times and was unable to pay his debts.

* First Interstate had written down the Alta Mesa loan by $963,297 just six months earlier, an indication that Symington wasn't paying his bills on time.

* Symington's $791,000 in "readily marketable securities" reported on his financial statement were in fact untouchable.

* Symington had admitted to First Interstate just three days earlier that the real estate values that made up nearly all of the reported wealth on his financial statement were "highly subjective."

Instead, Symington lied about his real estate assets on his financial statement given to the pension funds. For example, Symington claimed he still had $250,000 in equity in the Alta Mesa project even though he had defaulted three times on the loan.

The pension funds would not begin to learn the truth until after Symington declared bankruptcy in September 1995. Since that time, pension funds attorney Michael Manning has left no stone unturned in his examination of Symington's finances.

So last week was miserable for Cockerham, and the future doesn't look much brighter. He's certain to spend many more hours being grilled by the prosecutors in Symington's criminal trial.

After that, Mike Manning will be waiting for him.

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