Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BREAKING: NCAA and SEC “fast tracking” the Cam Newton investigation

Keep in mind that “fast tracking” in NCAA terms could mean that they wrap everything up in four months, rather than the four years it took to hammer USC.  But the fast track is better than the slow track, isn’t it?

On ESPN’s College Football Live Program, the show’s Jesse Palmer confirmed that the NCAA and the SEC were both moving quickly; that decisions could be made as early as this week; and Palmer also said that this “could open up the SEC West race again,” and that an “undefeated LSU” could reach the SEC Championship Game.

Keep in mind that LSU has lost only once—to Auburn.  If the NCAA and the conference are truly contemplating what Palmer is suggesting, it means that they are at least considering vacating wins.

Palmer is incorrect though, in that a vacated win does not translate into a victory for LSU.  However, the vacated win would propel LSU into the title game, if they win out.

Mother of God

In other, related news today, the FBI interviewed former Mississippi State player John Bond, one of the first characters to appear in this two-week old saga. But what’s important to note is this:

Bond's attorney, Phil Abernethy, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that John Bond met with federal and state investigators and "cooperated fully with both agencies," according to the Associated Press.

“Both agencies” means that this is part of a coordinated investigation spanning multiple jurisdictions.  These things don’t just pop up in response to internet rumor and media speculation.  In fact, the feds have been snooping around Auburn for a while now. 

Remember this?

image As much as Lowder has already lost, he could still lose much more. A slew of class-action suits have been filed by both Colonial shareholders and former employees that charge Colonial with reckless and dishonest conduct and name Lowder as a primary defendant.

One thing that seems clear is that Colonial Bank, led by Lowder, binged on the real estate bubble probably as much as or more than any sizable bank in the country, making dozens of acquisitions to get into fast-growing markets such as Nevada, Atlanta, and especially Florida, and concentrating more than 85% of its loan portfolio in real estate.

Perhaps most worrying for Lowder is an investigation by the FBI and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program into Colonial's so-called warehouse-lending business.

Colonial applied for $550 million in TARP funds last fall but was never cleared to receive a bailout. On Aug. 3, just 11 days before regulators shut down Colonial, agents raided the bank's offices in downtown Orlando, where the warehouse lending was managed, and spent hours carting away boxes of documents.

Or, how about this?

Thus far in 2010, 287 banks have been seized by the FDIC. The federal insurance fund has had to cough up almost $12.7 billion to make depositors whole after the banks were seized. Know which was the biggest bank that went down last? It was Lowder's Colonial Banc Group. Lowder also had several of his Auburn trustee buddies and friends sitting on the board of Colonial. They included Jimmy Rane, Pat Dye. Another major stockholder was casino owner Milton McGregor who was talked into taking on another $13 million in shares just months before the bank failed.

The late John Miller, also on the AU board, was the primary attorney for Lowder’s bank and was paid millions. Trustee Paul Spina, who, another former board member, was associated with Lowder’s bank in a lesser capacity. Former trustee Earlon McWhorter, a contractor/builder, also found a friendly banking experience at Colonial where he also borrowed millions.

The late Jimmy Samford, who once headed Auburn trustees, maintained an office in Lowder's building in Montgomery where he engaged in lobbying for Lowder and the bank. The current head of the trustees is John Blackwell who has borrowed millions from Colonial. Ditto for Sen. Lowell Barron, a former AU trustee and the most powerful man in the Alabama Senate.

Sports fans, this appears to be much, much bigger than just a great quarterback with a father who was probably looking to profit from his son’s athletic talents.  The feds started looking into Bobby Lowder’s financial dealings because they thought he might have fudged the books on his bank’s TARP application.

Then, apparently, they came across Lowder & Company’s dealings with the recent investigation and indictment of legislators and lobbyists in connection with the alleged “pay-for-vote” scandal on gambling in Alabama.

Then, apparently, they became interested in the Cam Newton scandal because maybe, just maybe, some of Colonial Bancgroup’s capital just may have been involved in paying players at Auburn.

Now, there is a coordinated investigation going on, spanning multiple jurisdictions and investigators sharing information.  If there is a shred of evidence that Colonial money found it's way into the pockets of past or present football players, or their families or associates, we will have a scandal that makes the USC – Bush fiasco look like a garden variety cookie jar robbery.


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