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UCI Researchers to Study S&L; Fraud

From a Times Staff Writer

The troubled savings and loan industry will go under the microscope in a research project headed by two UC Irvine faculty members.

The National Institute of Justice has awarded a $240,000 grant to Henry Pontell and Kitty Calavita, both of UCI’s social ecology department, to conduct the first comprehensive study of fraud in the nation’s S&L; industry.

For the next two years, Pontell, an associate UCI professor, and Calavita, an assistant UCI professor, will examine the magnitude, nature and role of white-collar crime in the thrift industry.

The UCI researchers said their preliminary studies have shown that S&L; fraud falls into three broad groups which they describe as unlawful risk-taking, looting and cover-ups.

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In practice, fraud at any institution could encompass all three categories, they said.

The researchers will concentrate on the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles (including Orange County), San Francisco, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Miami and Washington.

They will analyze government reports, transcripts of congressional hearings and statistics from U.S. attorney’s offices. They also will rely on interviews with regulators and prosecutors, and will try to identify ways to improve regulations and law enforcement efforts.

There is no indication that they plan to interview current or former savings and loan executives.

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