Funds to Recover Millions from Former Governor

February 19, 2001 ( - Six union pension funds will be re-paid $18 million from loans they made to a former Arizona governor who orchestrated a failed real estate deal.

The six labor union funds made the loans to former Arizona Governor Fife Symington when he was a Phoenix real estate developer, before he became governor. Symington held office from 1991 to 1997.

In the Federal bankruptcy ruling, the judge found Symington intentionally gave the unions false financial data which they relied on to make their investments in a proposed Phoenix office and retail center complex.  He then ordered Symington to repay the unions $10 million, plus $8  million in interest.

Symington, who was pardoned by former president Bill Clinton in his last days in office, was made ineligible from any criminal prosecution stemming from his days as a flamboyant Phoenix-area developer in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the Washington Post reported.

The ruling against Symington is the latest in a series of  problems.  In October 1995, he  filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy contending he was in debt. Two years later, he was convicted of multiple counts of criminal fraud for issuing false financial statements, and he resigned as Arizona governor the same day.

The pension funds’ suit was originally filed in civil court and the Federal bankruptcy judge upheld the civil court decision today. A lawyer for the unions said he would  aggressively seek to recover the money which he thinks is being held by relatives, or Symington may stand to inherit. He also intends to garnish all of the former governor’s wages, he told the Washington Post.

– Chuck Epstein