September 18, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: David L. Paul

Former chairman, CenTrust Savings Bank, age 71

Mike Vogel | 7/1/2010

David L. Paul
[Photo: Brian Smith]
» I was raised in Florida — went to North Beach Elementary in Miami Beach until I was about 10, moved to New York after my dad passed away. I remember when Joe’s (Joe’s Stone Crab) was literally a wooden shack. I’m not exaggerating.

» I came back when I bought what was the bankrupt Dade Savings, which was half a billion dollars in the red. ... We signed a contract with the government that the first $21 million of earnings each year would be applied to reducing the pre-existing losses over a period of approximately 24 years. This was the way the government avoided funding losses. In my day, the person who took over the bank cleaned up the mess. Today the Federal Reserve cleans up the mess.

» I think the one thing that came out of my having been in prison is that I’m probably more introspective, more thoughtful and hopefully a little bit more humble. ... Certainly it wasn’t pleasant.

» To say that I stole $2.5 million out of a bank that I and my family and two close friends owned 85% of is absurd. The public thinks that, but it’s not true. I wasn’t broke when I came down here. I already had made $150 million.

» I just finished reading a book about the changing populations of the world. Given a short period of time, two generations, the majority of Europe will not be Christian. Here in America, if we didn’t allow immigrants into this country, we wouldn’t be touching the 2.2 children per family which sustains Judeo-Christian culture that makes this country great. You’re going to see major changes, and one of my deep concerns ... is whether the vitality and vibrancy that came out of our culture over many hundreds of years will have been substituted with a more stringent, structured culture. That’s a big problem.

» The greatest form of birth control isn’t with contraception. It’s giving people education and a little bit of wealth.

» I was ordered on Oct. 28, 1989, to buy back $150 million in bonds. I was then indicted for the losses those bond holders suffered on us buying back our debt. We sold $150 million of bonds, bought them back for $100 million at the direction of the regulators and that $50 million went into the net worth of the bank and then I was found criminally liable for the losses. I never took $50 million. It was sitting in the bank when the government took it over. I got indicted for buying back our debt. This is exactly what the government is now encouraging banks to do. Today, it’s not only legal, it’s demanded by the regulators.

» I think in retrospect, given the facts and what they were, my case was very political.

» You had the regulators who didn’t like the policies of deregulation. So you have Atlanta applying standards to us, and by the way to the industry, that were inconsistent with what the Treasury and our government wanted to do. You’ve got to remember those regulators are there for life. It’s deja vu — you’re seeing the desire on the part of the current Obama administration to get lending back to small businesses as rapidly as possible to create jobs. You’re seeing the regulators requiring underwriting standards today that are unbelievable and totally inconsistent, in my judgment, with what our current government and for that matter Congress wants done.

» There are some people, but not many, who don’t talk to me, but the vast, vast majority of the people I still have a good, cordial and, indeed in some instances, a real friendship with.

» I have most of my aorta fully replaced, which is a major form of surgery lasting 20 hours, and you’re left, at least I was, where I couldn’t walk and I had to learn how to walk again. To the extent that I had the time to focus on myself and wasn’t working 13, 14 hours a day six days a week, that was a good thing.

» How things appear, unfortunately in our society, is more important sometimes than the truth.

» In April of ’89, I said to myself if this goes through, we’re finished. ... How do I get away from the regulators? Well, if I don’t have insured deposits then I’m nothing but an investment bank. So I get Merrill Lynch to buy my certificates of deposits, CDs ... and I get S&Ls to buy my other ones, plus I’m giving them all the branches. No branches, no insured deposits, no regulators. Done, finished, sign the deal. OK? The regulators turned it down, and then when they took over our bank, gave those branches to the exact same bank.

» I read three, four hours a day. That’s exciting. I’ve got thousands of books in my house. This business of looking at television three or four hours a day is insane.

» I’ve had a very blessed life. I give advice to a handful of high net worth investors and am involved with my family and enjoying life for what it is. And that’s OK to be doing in your 70s.

» You know I’m a liberal, always have been, will continue to be.

Tags: Florida Icon, Banking & Finance

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