The chairman and largest shareholder of American Interstate Bank in Newport Beach will keep his investment in his bank even though he has taken a short walk next door to join Bank of America’s private banking office, a division that finances the high rollers in business.
Raymond W. Haas, who owns about 12% of American Interstate’s 1.1 million shares, said, however, that he will step down soon as chairman and director of American Interstate.
A Bank of America spokesman said that Haas’ finances were examined when he joined the bank March 1, and the bank decided no conflict existed. But as a result of an inquiry from The Times, the bank said Haas agreed Tuesday to place his American Interstate stock in a non-voting trust “to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Haas told The Times that his position as a senior account officer at Bank of America is not a conflict of interest because he will not be competing with American Interstate. “No way” are any customers following him from American Interstate, he said.
At American Interstate, John P. Engberg, president and chief executive officer, said he was equally convinced that no conflict existed. He pointed out that his bank’s maximum unsecured loan limit was $700,000, while B of A’s private banking operation makes minimum loans of $500,000 and usually deals with loans of $5 million to $20 million.
Engberg also said that since his bank cut out salaries for Haas and other directors 18 months ago, Haas has not been active in bank management. Haas said that he pursued financial consulting and real estate development during that time.
B of A’s private banking office in Newport Beach opened in January, 1984.