The Pittsburgh Press (January 15, 1941)
WOMAN CHARGES ‘POLITICS’ FORCED HER FROM BANK JOB
By John Paulus, Pittsburgh Press staff writer
Steubenville, Ohio, Jan. 15 –
The presidency of the Union Savings & Trust Co., one of the oldest banks in Steubenville, was taken over today by a U.S. government banking expert from Rochester, N.Y., amid charges of “politics” in the ouster of Mrs. Wilma Sinclair LeVan, president of the bank for eight years.
Mrs. LeVan, Republican National Committeewoman from Ohio from 1926 to 1932, submitted her resignation yesterday at the annual meeting of the bank’s stockholders.
A director of the bank said:
It was accepted because we had no alternative. Mrs. LeVan had asked us to accept the inevitable although twice before since Nov. 19 we had refused to consider her resignation.
Shortly after having abruptly terminated her association with the bank which her grand-uncle founded and in which her family had a keen interest for many years, Mrs. LeVan said:
I am being purged because of my political activity in the last campaign.
The new president of the bank is Jerome H. Sharpe, sent to Steubenville by the Reconstruction Finance Corp., which loaned the institution $500,000 to reopen after the 1933 Bank Holiday. Mr. Sharpe, who has spent several years as a government banking expert, denied any political implications in Mrs. LeVan’s resignation.
Mrs. LeVan’s position in the bank was a relatively temporary one since she went into the bank on an emergency basis.
She was president of the Reorganizing Committee after the Bank Holiday and was continued as president of the bank when it reopened. Mrs. LeVan has done an outstanding job in regaining public confidence in this bank and felt that the time had come when she could retire.
The demand for her resignation, Mrs. LeVan said, came in a letter from the RFC on Nov. 19. The letter, which was sent to all members of the bank’s board of directors, insisted on the resignation of Mrs. LeVan within 30 days.
Mrs. LeVan said:
The management clause, common in all RFC contracts, was invoked. They had nothing else to pick out. They could not declare our obligations defaulted until 1953.
Mrs. LeVan said that the RFC letter told all the board members that she was to be retained in no executive capacity whatever. If she were, the RFC threatened to put into force its “management clause” and actually force her ouster, Mrs. LeVan said.
Mrs. LeVan explained that the RFC specifies in all its agreements and contracts with indebted institutions that the management of such firms “must be satisfactory top the RFC” during the period of the obligation. Mrs. LeVan said that, although the RFC could not declare the bank in default even though interest and principal might not be paid, it could invoke the “management clause” at any time.
The RFC wanted a recapitalization of our firm so that it could balance its books in Washington. We did not approve of a recapitalization. That was made the nub of an obviously political ouster.
The bank increased its assets from $2 million to something over $3 million, Mrs. LeVan said, during the eight years, she was the head of the institution. In 1940, Mrs. LeVan said, the bank earned $48,000 which, compared to the $16,500 earnings banks of the same size were reporting, was phenomenal.
‘Hard, uphill fight’
My only interest in taking on the job as president of this bank, outside of sentimental reasons, was to protect the investments of depositors and stockholders who had faith in this institution.
For a salary of only $200 a month, I worked hard to rebuild confidence in this bank. We had a hard, uphill fight, but we did it. We charged off $400,000, money which we actually had earned. Our earning record was good for a bank our size. In two or three more years, we would be able to take care of our RFC obligations.
Mr. Sharp, the bank’s new president, told her that she would be unacceptable to the RFC in any capacity, even a board membership, Mrs. LeVan charged. Upon receipt of the RFC letter of Nov. 19, she said, the directors told the government agency that it would have to do the job itself, they would not be responsible for the move.
‘Bank in fine shape’
Mrs. LeVan said:
There is nothing that can injure our bank now. We worked hard, stockholders, directors, and everyone else, and it is in fine shape. What is being done to me cannot have any effect on the financial status of the institution.
It was reported that the RFC charged that the bank had failed to earn sufficient profits, that the fair value of the assets is less than an amount equal to all liabilities, and that the bank had not paid its interest on its RFC loan to Aug. 1, 1940. It was reported that the RFC also charged that no payment had been made into the sinking fund on Feb. 1, 1937 and every Feb. 1 since that date.
A stockholder said after the meeting:
Mrs. LeVan is one of Steubenville’s most prominent people. We would have liked to continue her in office but it was impossible, under the RFC demands, to do it.
‘No doubt about politics’
A director of the bank said:
There is no doubt that this resignation has political strings tied to it. But we can do nothing but accept the verdict. The bank is a much better institution for having had Mrs. LeVan as its president.
The stockholders session was held in the lower lobby of the bank. Several of the older stockholders, two old men and two old women, were tearful at the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. LeVan said.
Mrs. LeVan left the bank immediately after reading her report and hearing her resignation accepted. She did not wait for the election of new officers or re-election of board members.
Mrs. LeVan left for a vacation in Florida this morning.
The members of the bank’s board are C. B. McCann, R. M. Giffin, F. Herbert Wells, F. E. Vance, C. R. Smith, Mrs. Grace Mahon, J. H. Sindlinger and Dr. H. W. Minor.