Bank loans

Banker convicted of bribery over bank loans to Manafort seeking Trump administration job

By Lauren del Valle

A former Chicago bank executive was found guilty on Tuesday of charges alleging that he conspired with former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to swap risky bank loans for a high-ranking job in the presidential administration.

Stephen Calk, the former chairman and chief executive of the Federal Savings Bank, was found guilty of one count of bribery at a financial institution and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery at a financial institution. The charges carry a maximum of 30 and 5 years in prison, respectively.

Calk was ultimately never offered or accepted any administration position, and the bank suffered a multimillion-dollar loss when Manafort defaulted on the loans.

Calk and his attorneys made no comment to the press when he left court on Tuesday. He has not been remanded in custody and is scheduled for sentencing in Manhattan federal court on January 10, 2022.

Prosecutors called Calk greedy, hungry and desperate to get into the Trump administration, telling jurors during closing arguments Monday that the bank’s CEO pushed his employees to approve Manafort’s risky loans despite the debt and properties in foreclosure.

“No matter how many problems, the loans just wouldn’t die. Why not? Because Calk wanted them to shut down,” prosecutor Paul Monteleoni said. “That’s the second of seven reasons why you know Calk had corrupt intent because he gave Manafort such special treatment. And he did it with both eyes open. So the idea that everything the world was moving on alone and keeping things in Calk 100% reversed Calk was deep in the weeds on this loan.

Several of the 14 government witnesses were bank employees and board members who testified to their uncertain feelings about subprime lending.

Calk’s defense attorneys argued Calk didn’t know he was doing anything wrong by giving Manafort $16 million in loans, claiming it was Manafort who committed fraud by lying about his wealth to get the loans approved.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours over two days before returning the verdict.

The allegations

Days after Calk’s bank approved the first loan in 2016, Manafort appointed Calk to the Economic Advisory Council for Trump’s campaign, an unpaid role that thrust Calk into the spotlight giving media interviews as a surrogate for countryside.

Prosecutors showed jury text messages Calk sent Manafort on election night in 2016 advising him that his bank could issue a second loan despite what they called “red flags” in Manafort’s financial situation. .

Former Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci said Manafort asked him to get an interview with Calk for the post of Army secretary during the transition after Trump was elected president in 2016.

Calk was eventually interviewed at Trump Tower in New York for the position of Under Secretary of the Army and did not get the job.

At the time, Scaramucci was part of the self-proclaimed ‘tiger team’ along with Jared Kushner and other advisers from Trump’s inner circle, which oversaw interviews for undersecretary and assistant secretary positions in the administration. .

Scaramucci testified that he was unfamiliar with Calk, but it was not uncommon for people to contact him with recommendations for staffing.

Although Manafort took an official leave of absence from Trump’s staff, Scaramucci said they had a good relationship and he “wanted to be helpful” to Manafort when he reached out to push Calk and another friend to talks. administrative positions.

Calk’s attorney, Paul Schoeman, told the jury during closing arguments that Calk does not dispute that Manafort made calls on his behalf to further his goal of getting a government job.

“Yes, Steve Calk was personally involved in providing loans to Paul Manafort, and yes, Steve Calk got help and advice from Paul Manafort when applying for a government job that he didn’t. got. But what the government hasn’t proven is that Mr. Calk thought at the time that he was doing these things that he was doing something wrong, something corrupt, something wrong. They didn’t show you that he wasn’t acting in good faith in trying to make loans that he thought were good for his bank,” Schoeman said.

The defense presented a brief case that lasted less than a full day of hearings. Calk chose not to testify.

Brigadier General Bernard Banks and Newsmax correspondent Steve Cortes testified for the defense about relationships Calk had in high places around the Trump transition other than Manafort.

Cortes testified that while involved in Trump’s presidential transition, he advocated for Calk with other internal members of the transition team.

Calk’s defense team argued that Calk was fully qualified as a former Army Reserve soldier and career banker to realistically pursue government positions.

“What really matters to Donald Trump is how you do on TV and Mr. Calk did well on TV and maybe that would put him in a position just like Mr. Scaramucci was good on TV and he got a job at the White House. And it’s not like the Trump cabinet is full of all these people, you know, government, you know, long-time government people,” Schoeman said during the defense’s closing argument on Monday.

The so-called “quid pro quo” between Calk and Manafort came to light in 2018 during Manafort’s trial in Virginia.

Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of financial fraud, but jurors deadlocked on all four counts of bank fraud and conspiracy relating to the fraudulent loans he received from the bank. of Chalk.

Months later, Manafort pleaded guilty in a separate federal case in Washington, D.C., and admitted to all alleged conduct at the trial in Virginia, including conspiring with Calk to commit bank fraud.

Former President Donald Trump pardoned Manafort and the March indictment in the Calk case did not charge Manafort in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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CNN’s Erica Orden contributed to this report.