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S&L UNIT PLANS ACTION AGAINST BUSH SON ALLEGES CONFLICT OF INTEREST AS DIRECTOR OF FAILED THRIFT

Federal savings-and-loan regulators said Friday they will seek disciplinary action against President Bush's son, Neil, charging there were conflicts of interest in decisions he made as a director of a failed Colorado thrift institution.

The Office of Thrift Supervision, or OTS, said it would go before an administrative law judge to get a cease-and-desist order against Bush, 35, who was a director of Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association in Denver until August 1988.

The order, a less severe sanction than the agency has imposed against other former Silverado officials, would direct Bush not to engage in any further conflicts of interest, should he ever work at a federally insured bank or thrift.

"I will fight the matter in court," Bush said from Denver. "I have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong."

Silverado is one of hundreds of thrifts whose failures over the past several years prompted a $159 billion thrift bailout law signed by President Bush last August.

At least 200 thrifts are expected to become insolvent in the months ahead in addition to the more than 300 that have already been seized, sold or liquidated by the government since August.

Experts and regulators have cited fraud and mismanagement by savings and loan executives as major factors behind the thrift industry crisis.

The government seized control of Silverado Dec. 9, 1988, and subsequently sold it to First Nationwide Financial Corp. Dec. 30 of that year. Estimates of the cost of the failure to taxpayers range as high as $1.6 billion.

The OTS, which is probing the causes of the Silverado failure, said it decided to take administrative action against the president's son after he announced Thursday that he had broken off several weeks of negotiations with the agency over a possible settlement.

The White House had no immediate comment on the decision, but a spokeswoman for the president's wife Barbara said the first lady does not believe her son is guilty of wrongdoing.

Neil Bush, one of the president's four sons and owner of an oil and exploration firm in Denver, resigned his Silverado post two weeks after his father received the Republican presidential nomination in August 1988.

The OTS has been probing whether Bush took part in decisions to approve loans to his business associates.

It said its examiners found that Silverado managers were deficient in assessing the credit worthiness of borrowers and concentrated too much of the thrift's business in commercial loans amid a depressed market.

It also charged they conducted an exceptionally large number of problem transactions with insiders, including shareholders, officers and directors.

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