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O.C. BANKRUPTCY / Closing the Books with Merrill Lynch

Key Developments in Orange County's Financial Crisis: 1994 to 1998

June 03, 1998

Important dates in Orange County's financial crisis:

1994

Dec. 2: After stock market closes, officials verify rumors that county investment portfolio has lost nearly $1.5 billion in value.

Dec. 4: County Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron, portfolio manager, resigns from post he held 24 years.

Dec. 6: Orange County files largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, freezing assets of investment pool.

Dec. 8: Internal audit shows county auditor warned officials more than a year earlier that investment pool was not adequately supervised.

1995

Jan. 12: County sues Merrill Lynch & Co., alleging it concocted exotic investment scheme that broke state law and led to collapse. Merrill Lynch vigorously denies the allegations.

Jan. 21: County audit discloses possible bookkeeping falsifications; $85 million in interest was diverted from pool participants to account managed by Citron.

Feb. 24: County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider and Assistant Treasurer Matthew Raabe are fired.

April 27: Citron pleads guilty to six felony charges relating to county bankruptcy.

July 10: Orange County supervisors reach rollover agreement delaying payment of $800 million in short-term debt for one year; Standard & Poor's downgrades county bonds to D rating, lowest possible.

Aug. 7: Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez announces he will leave office Sept. 22, with 15 months left in his term.

Aug. 22: Supervisors approve recovery plan before a crucial state deadline. Plan calls for taking $570 million from transportation agency and forcing cities and special districts to postpone getting back more than $800 million in deposits.

Sept. 30: Supervisor Roger R. Stanton announces he won't seek reelection when his term ends in December 1996.

Nov. 18: Supervisor William G. Steiner announces he won't seek reelection when his term ends in December 1998.

Dec. 13: Orange County Grand Jury accuses Supervisors Stanton and Steiner and county Auditor-Controller Steve E. Lewis of official misconduct and indicts former county Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino on criminal charges.

1996

Jan. 24: After 13-month investigation, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Citron, Raabe and five supervisors of misleading investors in their investment pool.

April 31: In a major step toward recovery, county obtains top-notch rating from Wall Street, but at the cost of buying insurance guaranteeing repayment of its bonds.

May 3: Creditors overwhelmingly support county's bankruptcy recovery plan.

May 15: Federal judge OKs county's bankruptcy recovery plan.

June 11: County files another five suits aimed at recovering damages suffered in bankruptcy. Defendants include banking firm Morgan Stanley, Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor's, law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, brokerage Rauscher Pierce Refsnes Inc. and the Student Loan Marketing Assn. (Sallie Mae).

June 12: County emerges from bankruptcy, having borrowed $880 million to repay its most pressing debts.

Sept. 13: Judge declares mistrial in Rubino trial after jury deadlocks.

Oct. 3: Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to plea-bargain to avoid retrying Rubino. He pleads no contest to a felony, which the judge reduces to a misdemeanor.

Nov. 19: Citron sentenced to one year in jail and fined $100,000 for his role in bankruptcy. He is allowed to serve his sentence in a work-release program that permits him to spend his nights and weekends at home.

Nov. 21: SEC sues CS First Boston, accusing it of fraud and deceptive practices that hastened county's bankruptcy.

Nov. 26: State appeals court dismisses all bankruptcy-related charges against Stanton and Steiner.

1997

May 2: Former Citron deputy Raabe convicted of misappropriating public funds and securities fraud related to bankruptcy.

June 19: Merrill Lynch agrees to pay $30 million to end criminal investigation into its role in bankruptcy.

Oct. 3: Raabe sentenced to three-year prison term for his role in county financial collapse; he is only person to receive prison term for bankruptcy-related crimes, but remains free on bail pending the outcome of his appeals.

Oct. 23: Citron sentence ends, with 120 days off for good behavior.

Dec. 6: State attorney general files motion saying case against Lewis should be dropped.

1998

March 2: North Orange County Community College District becomes first pool depositor to be made whole in a $12-million settlement with New York law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. The settlement removes obstacle to county settling with LeBoeuf for $45 million. The firm served as bond counsel on more than $1 billion worth of borrowings Citron used to buy risky securities.

May 9: First Boston settles case with Orange County by paying $55 million.

May 18: Accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick agrees to pay $75 million to settle lawsuits over its role in bankruptcy. Marwick failed to alert county about investments made by Citron.

June 2: Merrill Lynch Inc. agrees to pay Orange County $400 million over its role in the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. and to return $20 million in county money it had held since 1994.

Source: Times reports; Researched by LOIS HOOKER/Los Angeles Times

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