As protesters rally around the country at Tea Parties protesting Wall Street greed and increasing government incursions into private pocketbooks (Peter Boyles is broadcasting live from the State Capitol right now on KHOW/630 AM, although the Denver protest doesn't officially start until noon), we get the final chapter in the last era of excess.
A week ago, Michael Wise, the former Silverado Banking exec, killed himself -- jumping from the top floor of the Tampa International Airport. His name may not register on the national radar, but it still resonates here, as both an exemplar of greed and the failure of the government to protect the average person.
Silverado was a giant Denver-based savings-and-loan, and when it collapsed in 1988, it left taxpayers with a billion-dollar hole to fill. Wise was acquitted of criminal charges connected to Silverado, but banned from banking for life -- so he promptly moved to Aspen, where he bilked investors in another financial scheme, finally earning himself a prison sentence. But he got out in time to move to Florida and fuel that state's mortgage-broker boom.
Wise wasn't the only big name tarnished by Silverado. One of the S&L's high-profile boardmembers wias Neil Bush, son of soon-to-be-president George W. Bush, who earned that slot not with his business acumen but the ability of his name to deflect potential investigations by regulators, postponing any serious scrutiny until it was too late to save investors bilked by this gang. Like Wise, Neil Bush, too, left Denver after Silverado collapsed.
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And now, twenty years later, the whole country has gone bust.
Here's what I wrote ten years ago, when Denver had recovered from the economic gloom of the late-'80s, and Wise had just pleaded guilty to his Aspen scam:
In the vicious boom-and-bust cycle of Colorado history, we keep forgiving -- and forgetting. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Just don't be surprised that when the economy once again hits bottom, we're left holding some other wiseguy's bag.