Now that there are no more Charlie Keatings to pursue, regulatory watchdogs at the Office of Thrift Supervision are turning inward.
After a rigorous six-month investigation, they've broken up an office pool on imaginary baseball and football games and punished six players.
The OTS employees were running fantasy football and rotisserie baseball leagues off-premises and after hours. Occasionally, during work, they'd send each other E-mail messages about the previous day's results. OTS said that constituted gambling and a misuse of government property.
Last week, David A. Sjogren, a manager in corporate securities, and Peter A. Hull, a paralegal in information services, were suspended for 14 days without pay for their activities.
Four other employees, including two lawyers, were issued permanent letters of reprimand.
A |Witch Hunt'
In the course of the investigation, OTS interviewed 20 staff members for between 15 and 45 minutes each and held numerous meetings with senior management to discuss the matter, according to Chuck Smith, an attorney at Baltimore-based Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver, which represents the OTS union and one staff member in appeals of the matter.
"They had two high-ranking lawyers. conducting this witch hunt," Mr. Smith said. "I can't fathom the amount of money that has been wasted on this."
Mr. Smith says his fees have reached the $10,000 mark. OTS will have to pay them if he wins his case.
The OTS won't reveal its costs, but staff lawyers were on the case for six months, Mr. Smith said.
Agency Calls It Gambling
"The agency has determined that fantasy sports are gambling," Mr. Smith said. The staffers were told their crime was misusing OTS time, equipment, and supplies by sending the occasional electronic messages to discuss their off-premises sports action.
"We are not talking great expenditures of time, and we are not talking extensive use of equipment," said Mr. Smith.
A former banking regulator said the OTS action "just cuts to the issue of do you reprimand somebody for calling their wife every night to say they are on their way home and [accuse them of] using government property for personal use."
Winner Got $100
The OTS confirmed the internal investigation, but refused to provide more information. "I just don't want to get into the details about it," a spokesman said.
In fantasy leagues, players choose individual baseball or football players from professional teams to make up an imaginary team. They earn points when their players score touchdowns or hit home runs or rank among the leaders in fielding.
Each participant in the two OTS leagues paid $40 at the beginning of the season, and top finishers divided the proceeds, with the winner getting about $100, Mr. Smith said.
A Few Still in the Game
The OTS investigation centered on the 1992 season. This year, there are still a few diehard players left in the OTS leagues. Mr. Smith said some have quit and the rest are more careful.
"They make sure that they don't talk about it, they don't do anything about it -- they don't even joke about it in the building," Mr. Smith said.