When Simone Lagomarsino took the helm of Hawthorne Savings Bank in December 1999, one of her first acts was to end the thrift’s practice of lending to cash-strapped millionaires.

Not that this wasn’t a profitable niche for Hawthorne, an El Segundo, Calif., institution. The $1.75 billion-asset thrift often wound up owning the mansions borrowers pledged as collateral — valuable assets in Southern California’s sizzling real estate market.

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