More penalties handed out in bank case: Former CEO of First National Bank of Shelby County vows to fight feds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The federal agency that regulates the country&8217;s banks has passed out new penalties involving the now defunct First National Bank of Shelby County.

The latest release by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) adds three names to the list of former bank employees and directors hit with enforcement actions since the fall of 2005.

The most recent actions include civil money penalties against former director Hewitt L. &8220;Sonny&8221; Conwill and Jerry E. Oliver, Jr., a former director and executive vice president for FNB.

Oliver, who is currently employed by First United Security Bank in Calera, was hit with a $20,000 fine, the stiffest given out so far by the OCC in actions involving FNB.

While working for FNB, Oliver made a loan to a third-party borrower that &8220;constituted unsafe or unsound practices, breaches of his fiduciary duty to the Bank, and violations of the 2002 Formal Agreement,&8221; according to the consent order.

He was also issued a personal cease and desist order along with Paul L. Ash, a former loan officer at the bank.

Oliver refused to comment for this story; Ash could not be reached.

Conwill, who now serves as a circuit court judge in Shelby County, said his $7,500 fine was centered around a formal agreement between the OCC and FNB&8217;s board of directors in 2002.

The penalties were delivered through signed consent orders that outline OCC findings against each individual. The orders do not represent an admission of guilt or innocence, according to public documents.

&8220;When it came down to the end, the OCC didn&8217;t feel like we had satisfied them with our efforts,&8221; he said.

Although it didn&8217;t satisfy the OCC, Conwill said &8220;hard work&8221; by the board and its members paid off with the sale of FNB to Mississippi-based First M&F Corp. last fall.

Former First National CEO William T. Harrison defended Conwill and other members of the board, which also included Pelham Mayor Bobby Hayes.

&8220;We had good board members and they did a good job,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;None of them were bankers.

&8220;They were very honest and straight forward. They didn&8217;t do anything wrong.&8221;

Harrison said he and his sisters, former bank administrators Helen Harrison Phillips and Carol Harrison Smith, have retained legal counsel and plan to fight OCC actions against his family and the bank.

Findings previously released by the Comptroller against the three included &8220;violations, breaches and practices&8221; resulting in a loss to the bank, and gain for personal, family or related interests.

Each was also prohibited from any future affiliation with a financial institution