Marvin Copple, at 79; figure in Nebraska banking scandal

Associated Press / August 19, 2008
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LINCOLN, Neb. - One of the major figures in the Commonwealth Savings financial scandal of the 1980s in Lincoln has died.

A funeral home obituary said Marvin Copple died Saturday at age 79.

Mr. Copple served 29 months in prison after being found guilty of felony thefts connected with a pair of $250,000 payments from Commonwealth while he was vice president, in 1981.

Commonwealth was founded and owned by S.E. Copple, Mr. Copple's father.

Also prosecuted in the scandal was another son, Newton Copple, who had taken out a loan in the name of the wife of a former business partner without her knowledge.

On Nov. 1, 1983, state banking regulators declared Commonwealth, the largest of Nebraska's 32 industrial loan and investment companies, insolvent and locked the doors.

More than 6,700 depositors lost money in the $65 million Commonwealth collapse.

Each account was supposed to be guaranteed up to $30,000 by the state-funded Nebraska Depository Institution Guaranty Corp.Many Commonwealth depositors assumed their money was backed by the state treasury, but learned later that the guaranty corporation was nothing more than a state-authorized insurance pool that was supposed to have been financed by Commonwealth and Nebraska's other industrial loans companies and had only about $3 million.

Investigations later showed that lax oversight contributed to Commonwealth's failure.

The Commonwealth closing led to the ouster of the state banking director, Paul Amen, and the resignation and impeachment of then-Attorney General Paul Douglas.

In 1985, the Legislature appropriated $8.5 million as a settlement of any state liability in the case. Lawsuits dragged on for years and the final payout to depositors or their heirs was approved in April 2002.

In the end, they all got $40.15 million, about 59 cents on the dollar.

In all, six people were sent to prison in connection with the Commonwealth closure, including S.E. Copple. He pleaded no contest to a charge of making a false bank entry to deceive bank examiners, and in 1984 he was sentenced to 12 to 14 months in federal prison.

He died in 1987 at the age of 90.

Mr. Copple had also been a builder and developer and was active in the American Quarter Horse Association.

He leaves his wife, Joan; a brother, Ed; and three daughters.

Services were set for today in Lincoln.

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