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Headline:The Case Against Hurwitz In one of the last big S&L cases from the '80s, two federal agencies are pursuing Charles Hurwitz over the failure of united Savings. And for once, Hurwitz may have no place to hide.

Rick Stearns, for one, isn't worried about the lengthy delay in bringing the OTS case. "Our evidence is quite strong," he says. "We wouldn't have brought the case if we didn't expect to succeed on all charges. The documentary evidence will play a very large role; the trial will involve many, many exhibits."

Some of these exhibits look particularly damning for the Hurwitz side. One internal United Savings memo the feds obtained through subpoena discusses the dangerous state of the thrift's net worth and is marked "DESTROY AFTER READING." Apparently, somebody didn't.

But Hurwitz-obssessed California lawyer Martel worries that the passage of time has dimmed crucial memories, allowed important papers to be lost and softened public outrage.

"Hurwitz almost got away with it," Martel frets. "He may still."
So how will this all end for Hurwitz? The financial losses could be staggering -- both for him and Maxxam -- because of the sheer size of the damages being sought in the various cases.

Whip out a calculator and add these up: The FDIC wants $250 million from Hurwitz personally. The OTS wants its $1.6 billion back from the United Savings defendants, with a minimum of $200 million coming out of Maxxam's pocket. The settlement with the old Pacific Lumber shareholders will swallow $33 million of Maxxam's money, and the Department of Labor still hasn't said what price it will settle its pension case for. Harold Simmons wants Hurwitz to fork over about $43 million. Then there's Martel's claim for $5 billion. Whatever the total amount, it's more than either Hurwitz or Maxxam has.

Undoubtedly, the coming months will be among the most personally painful in Hurwitz's life, as the intensely private executive is forced to take his place on a hard courtroom bench -- day after day after day. If Hurwitz couldn't shrug off the heckling at UT, how much more excruciating will it be for him to face down the potentially damning testimony of trusted aides and employees, who will no doubt be subpoenaed against him in both Houston and Washington?

Back in 1992, when regulators despaired of ever making a solid case against him, journalist Sloan wryly observed: "If the federal agencies dealing with Hurwitz were redwood trees, they'd all be picnic tables by now."

As the clock ticks down on the last of the government's big S&L cases, those tables may have finally turned. Soon, it may be Hurwitz's turn to feel the buzzsaw veering alarmingly close.

In the April 25 story "The Case Against Hurwitz," California Congressman Frank Riggs was misidentified as having once lobbied for Pacific Lumber.

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