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Motive Remains a Mystery in Schwab Explosives Case

August 20, 2003|Kathy M. Kristof | Times Staff Writer

Law enforcement authorities were attempting Tuesday to find a motive and the culprit behind explosive devices found Monday at the Pebble Beach, Calif., home of Charles Schwab and the Carmel office of the discount brokerage firm he founded.

The devices, which consisted of briefcases full of wires, telephone parts and propane canisters, were dangerous, according to the Monterey County sheriff's office, which exploded the containers late Monday with the help of a bomb squad.

However, the briefcases weren't rigged or set to explode, Schwab executives said Tuesday.

"We have to believe it was a hoax, although a very frightening one," said Jennifer Hallahan, a Schwab spokeswoman in San Francisco. "We don't believe there is a broad threat."

The Carmel branch of Charles Schwab Corp., which was closed Monday after the device there was discovered, reopened Tuesday, Hallahan said. Neither the company nor law enforcement officials could comment about a potential motive.

Charles Schwab wasn't at his Pebble Beach home when the device there was discovered on the doorstep, Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis said.

Schwab, 66, wasn't available to comment, the company said.

Like much of the rest of the securities industry, Charles Schwab Corp. has suffered in recent years as the stock market slump cut trading volume and brokerage profits. The firm has slashed 10,000 jobs since 2000 and last week announced plans to lay off an additional 250 workers and close 20 branch offices.

The Carmel branch wasn't slated to be closed, the firm said.

"We still don't have a motive for this," Kanalakis said. "But we do have access to some surveillance tapes. Pebble Beach is a gated community and we're going to be looking at the security cameras there, and there was also a security camera at Mr. Schwab's residence, so we'll be looking at all of that, and hopefully we'll be able to come up with something."

Charles Schwab is chairman of the company but stepped down as co-chief executive in May. He founded the firm in the early 1970s.

Schwab shares rose 3 cents to $10.83 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Reuters was used in compiling this report.

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