Charles Keating, former lawyer and key figure in S&L debacle, dies at 90

Charles Keating, a former Cincinnati lawyer who went to prison after the collapse of his savings and loan, has died at the age of 90.

A Los Angeles Times obituary describes Keating as “the poster child of the savings and loan debacle 25 years ago.” He spent less than five years in prison after his convictions for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy were overturned, the New York Times reports. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to wire and bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to time served.

Keating’s Lincoln Savings & Loan was seized by the government in 1989, more than two years after Keating held regulators at bay with the help of five U.S. senators. The government covered $3.4 billion in the S&L’s losses. It was one of thousands of S&Ls that collapsed due to risky investments during an era of deregulation.

Prosecutors had alleged Keating looted the thrift while Lincoln officials persuaded customers to switch from federally insured investments to uninsured junk bonds. Law firms were among those targeted in civil suits that followed.

Keating started his professional life as a lawyer. He founded a law firm with his brother in 1952 and practiced law until 1972 when he became executive vice president of the firm’s principal client, American Financial Corp.

The Cincinnati Enquirer spoke with Keating’s longtime lawyer, Cooley chairman Stephen Neal. “Charlie never wavered in his faith,” Neal said. “It was gratifying for Charlie and all close to him that our appeals system eventually overturned past convictions and history ultimately vindicated so many of his actions.”

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