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FDIC bans Battaglia Jr. from banking

The order says he is unfit to work in the industry, citing charges stemming from his securities career.

Anthony S. Battaglia Jr., son and namesake of the prominent St. Petersburg attorney, has been banned from the banking industry after being banned from the securities business.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has prohibited Republic Bank _ which employed Battaglia last year _ or any other FDIC-insured institution from hiring him. Battaglia's problems with regulators stem from his earlier management of PaineWebber Inc.'s St. Petersburg branch.

The FDIC ban, which took effect June 20, said Battaglia's breaches at PaineWebber "involve personal dishonesty" and make him unfit to be a director, officer or employee "participating in the conduct of the affairs" of any bank.

In agreeing to the settlement, Battaglia neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

Battaglia, 44, could not be reached for comment. But his father deflected the order as "old news."

"He's made some very unfortunate mistakes . . . but that's behind him," the senior Battaglia said Friday. "That's an old story and this is nothing more than another stepping stone in the same old story."

The settlement was reached privately Jan. 14 but was not finalized or publicly available until summer.

In 1997, the Securities and Exchange Commission banned Battaglia from the securities industry and fined him $50,000 to settle allegations that he stole $180,000 from two customers and failed to supervise a broker accused of defrauding others.

In one case, Battaglia was accused of making two wire transfers of $45,000 each in June 1994 from the customers' accounts at PaineWebber to a recently opened bank account for Katsu Inc., a company controlled by Battaglia.

In the other case, he was accused of taking $100,000 in September 1995 from a client who had intended the money to be used for a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Nearly two weeks later, Battaglia made a $10,000 contribution to the hospital in the client's name.

Battaglia's father said the SEC ban did not prohibit his son from working for a bank or its subsidiary as long as he did not acquire more than a 5 percent ownership in the operation.

After leaving PaineWebber in 1996, Battaglia worked about a year as a loan officer for Republic Bank's Flagship Mortgage unit. He resigned about seven months ago, shortly before the bank laid off or re-assigned the remaining employees in its troubled Flagship unit and closed the operation.

Republic knew about the SEC problems but did not think that was a reason not to hire him, said Chris Hunter, the bank's general counsel.

Hunter said Republic adheres to FDIC standards that prohibit hiring people with a criminal conviction. "That ban by the securities industry does not constitute a (criminal) conviction . . . so hiring that person would not violate the FDIC," he said.

Hunter said Battaglia apparently was "a very effective salesman" for Flagship, which was then expanding into a nationwide operation peddling high-risk mortgage loans. But his tenure at Flagship fizzled about the same Flagship did. Republic shuttered the unit early this year, laying off hundreds of employees.

Hunter said Battaglia apparently left to avoid a layoff. But the FDIC said the private settlement with him was reached Jan. 14, a few weeks after his departure.

The elder Battaglia said his son now works for a mortgage company not affiliated with a bank but has no lending responsibilities because he cannot hold a broker's license. He did not provide the name of the company.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.