Feds Say Bank CEO Bent the Rules for Trump Job

Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk (center) departs Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday following his indictment on bribery charges. A former economic adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Calk is accused of signing off on high-risk loans to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to secure a position for himself in the administration. (CNS / Josh Russell)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal indictment unsealed Thursday against Federal Savings Bank founder and CEO Stephen Calk says the ex-economic adviser to the Trump campaign tried to bribe his way into a senior position in the administration.

“Specifically, Calk offered to, and did, cause the bank and holding company to extend $16 million in loans to the borrower in exchange for the borrower’s requested assistance in obtaining various positions for Calk, including secretary of the treasury, secretary of defense, and secretary of the Army,” the 26-page indictment states.

Though court papers do not reveal the name of the borrower, the description matches that of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose trial first put Calk under scrutiny.

Federal Savings Bank founder Stephen Calk, pictured here at 2012 event with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was indicted Thursday on charges that he tried to buy himself a senior post in President Donald Trump’s administration by making risky loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Al Podgorski/Chicago Sun-Times via AP) Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Calk, 54, self-surrendered in New York this morning and appeared in court Thursday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.

Following his client’s release on a $5 million personal-recognizance bond, defense attorney Daniel Stein emphasized in a statement to reporters that Calk’s bank has been deemed by prosecutors and a federal judge as “a victim of Mr. Manafort’s fraud.”

Stein called the government’s bribery charge “a travesty” and said the Federal Savings Bank loans to Manafort were “simply not a bribe for anything.” 

“He has done nothing wrong and is going to be exonerated at trial on the single charge that has been brought against him,” Stein said.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, appointed to his post by Trump, has recused himself from the case.

His second-in-command Audrey Strauss said in a statement that Calk abused his power.

“As alleged, Stephen M. Calk abused the power entrusted to him as the top official of a federally insured bank by approving millions of dollars in high-risk loans in an effort to secure a personal benefit, namely an appointment as secretary of the Army or another similarly high-level position in the incoming presidential administration,” Strauss said. “Calk’s alleged attempt to obtain such an appointment was unsuccessful, and the loans he approved were ultimately downgraded by the bank’s primary regulator.”

On July 28, 2016, Calk extended a $5.7 million loan to the borrower, who replied less than a week later with an offer, prosecutors say.

“Per our conversation, I want to add you to the National Economic Advisory Committee for [the presidential candidate],” the undated indictment states, shielding Trump’s name. “Is that something you would be able to do?”

“I am happy and willing to serve,” Calk allegedly replied.

Defense attorneys Jeremy Margolis (left) and Daniel Stein speak to reporters Thursday outside the Manhattan federal courthouse where Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk appeared on bribery charges. A former economic adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Calk is accused of signing off on high-risk loans to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to secure a position for himself in the administration. ( CNS / Josh Russell)

Calk would become one of 14 members appointed to the Trump campaign’s Economic Advisory Council.

“Other members of the council included an individual who went on to become secretary of the treasury, an individual who went on to become secretary of commerce, additional individuals who went on to hold senior governmental positions, and an individual who went on to chair the Presidential Inaugural Committee,” the indictment notes.

Calk faces a maximum of 30 years imprisonment if convicted of one count of financial institution bribery. 

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