A history of the S&L situation can be found here:
Following the deregulation of savings and loan associations (S&Ls) in the early 1980's, several of these banks began taking greater liberties with depositors' money, sinking it into risky real estate ventures and junk bonds in an effort to reap maximum profits. Fearful about the future of the vast amounts of federally-insured money being invested, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) instituted a cap on the amount of money S&L's were allowed to place in such volatile instruments. An investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan uncovered flagrant violations of these regulations, exceeding the limit by over $615 million.
But before any measures could be taken against the company, five Senators came calling at the FHLBB, requesting that the charges against Lincoln not be pursued, on the basis that the S&L was a major employer in their states. These Senators — McCain , John Glenn (D-OH), Alan Cranston (D-CA), Donald Riegle (D-MI) and Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) — had little in common. Most of them came from different states and different parts of the political spectrum. One of the only elements that linked the men together was Charles Keating. The banker had been a major contributor to each of their campaigns, donating close to $1.4 million dollars total. Keating also considered John McCain to be a close personal friend, with whom he'd shared vacations and business ventures.
Their pleas bought Lincoln more time, but the company was ultimately seized by the FHLBB two years later. Its bailout cost taxpayers over $3 billion; thousands of Lincoln investors lost their life savings.
The magnitude of Lincoln's collapse and the fraud charges later brought against Keating led the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the conduct of the five Senators — now known as the Keating Five —
Read more: The Keating Five - TIME http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1848150,00.html#ixzz2usVZsCu3
What is important to note about the S&L scandal is that it was the largest theft in the history of the world and US tax payers are who was robbed.
The problems occurred in the Savings and Loan industry as they relate to theft because the industry was deregulated under the Reagan/Bush administration and restrictions were eased on the industry so much that abuse and misuse of funds became easy, rampant, and went unchecked.
Additional facts on the Savings and Loan Scandal can be found here:
There are several ways in which the Bush family plays into the Savings and Loan scandal, which involves not only many members of the Bush family but also many other politicians that are still in office and still part of the Bush Jr. administration today. Jeb Bush, George Bush Sr., and his son Neil Bush have all been implicated in the Savings and Loan Scandal, which cost American tax payers over $1.4 TRILLION dollars (note that this is about one quarter of our national debt).
“This bill is the most important legislation for financial institutions in the last 50 years. It provides a long-term solution for troubled thrift institutions. ... All in all, I think we hit the jackpot.” So declared Ronald Reagan in 1982, as he signed the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act.
Reagan-era legislative changes essentially ended New Deal restrictions on mortgage lending — restrictions that, in particular, limited the ability of families to buy homes without putting a significant amount of money down.
Government, declared Reagan, is the problem, not the solution; the magic of the marketplace must be set free. And so the precautionary rules were scrapped.
Together with looser lending standards for other kinds of consumer credit, this led to a radical change in American behavior.
We weren’t always a nation of big debts and low savings: in the 1970s Americans saved almost 10 percent of their income, slightly more than in the 1960s. It was only after the Reagan deregulation that thrift gradually disappeared from the American way of life, culminating in the near-zero savings rate that prevailed on the eve of the great crisis. Household debt was only 60 percent of income when Reagan took office, about the same as it was during the Kennedy administration. By 2007 it was up to 119 percent.
Savings and Loans Crisis
Disaster struck after Paul Volcker, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, decided in October 1979 to restrict the growth of the money supply, which in turn caused interest rates to skyrocket. Between June 1979 and March 1980 short-term interest rates rose by more than six percentage points, from 9.06 percent to 15.2 percent. In 1981 and 1982 combined, the S&L industry collectively reported almost $9 billion in losses. Worse, in mid-1982 all S&Ls combined had a negative net worth, valuing their mortgages on a market-value basis, of $100 billion, an amount equal to 15 percent of the industry’s liabilities. Specific policy failures during the 1980s are examined below.
An incomplete and bungled deregulation of S&Ls in 1980 and 1982 lifted restrictions on the kinds of investments S&Ls could make. In 1980 and again in 1982, Congress and the regulators granted S&Ls the power to invest directly in service corporations, permitted them to make real estate loans without regard to the geographical location of the loan, and authorized them to hold up to 40 percent of their assets as commercial real estate loans. Congress and the Reagan administration naïvely hoped that if S&Ls made higher-yielding, but riskier, investments, they would make more money to offset the long-term damage caused by fixed-rate mortgages. However, the 1980 and 1982 legislation did not change how premiums were set for federal deposit insurance. Riskier S&Ls still were not charged higher rates for deposit insurance than their prudent siblings. As a result, deregulation encouraged increased risk taking by S&Ls.
December, 1982--Garn - St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 enacted. This Reagan Administration initiative is designed to complete the process of giving expanded powers to federally chartered S&Ls and enables them to diversify their activities with the view of increasing profits. Major provisions include: elimination of deposit interest rate ceilings; elimination of the previous statutory limit on loan to value ratio; and expansion of the asset powers of federal S&Ls by permitting up to 40% of assets in commercial mortgages, up to 30% of assets in consumer loans, up to 10% of assets in commercial loans, and up to 10% of assets in commercial leases.
Inflation was high when Volcker took over-13% or so. To get it under control, he tightened the money supply. This brought on a monster recession, the biggest since World War II. Within a year, the prime rate shot up to the unheard-of level of 21.5% (compared to an average of 7.6% for the fourteen previous years). Unemployment peaked at just under 11%.
According to author Robert Sherrill, Volcker stated, upon taking office, that "the standard of living for the average American has to decline." Sherrill says Volcker was recommended by David Rockefeller because "Wall Street and the international banking fraternity loved [Volcker]. They hated inflation-bankers don't like to be repaid in money that is softer than the money they lend, even if the softer money makes the economy hum-and they knew that Volcker was mean enough to destroy the economy to save the hardness of their dollars."
Volcker's policies caused a combination of inflation and recession called "stagflation." This put the squeeze on S&Ls. Most S&L mortgages were fixed-rate, so the S&Ls couldn't raise the interest they charged on those.
But because their depositors were withdrawing money by the billions and placing it in higher-yielding money market funds or government bonds, the S&Ls did have to raise the rates they paid on savings accounts and CDs. Finally, because of the recession, homeowners started defaulting on their mortgages in droves, and S&L bankruptcies skyrocketed.
Around the same time, the Reagan administration ended the requirement that S&Ls lend money only in their own communities, allowed them to offer 100% financing (i.e. no down payments), let real estate developers own their own S&Ls, and permitted S&L owners to lend money to themselves.
Whatever truth there is to that rumor the "defraud me" sign worked. J. William Oidenburg bought State Savings of Salt Lake City for $10.5 million, then had it pay him $55 million for a piece of land he'd bought for $874,000.
With the help of a shadowy figure named Herman K. Beebe, who served a year for bank fraud, Don Dixon bought Vernon Savings and Loan-one of the nation's healthiest-then set up a series of corporations for it to loan money to. Four years later, he left Vernon $1.3 billion in debt.
Beebe also had money in Silverado Savings, an S&L partly owned by President Bush's son Neil. Silverado told a prospective borrower he couldn't have $10 million; instead, he should borrow $15 million and buy $5 million in Silverado stock.
Although federal examiners knew Silverado was leaking cash as early as 1985, it wasn't closed down until December 1988, a month after Bush was elected president. Because Silverado kept leaking cash for those three years, it ended up costing taxpayers more than a billion dollars
In April 1987, as the world of savings and loan associations teetered under the weight of a boom in commercial real-estate lending, a group of senators met twice with federal banking regulators on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., whose bank later collapsed at a cost to taxpayers of $3 billion. The senators -- Alan Cranston of California, John Glenn of Ohio, Dennis DeConcini and John McCain of Arizona, and Donald W. Riegle of Michigan (who attended only one of the meetings) -- had collectively received $1.3 million in campaign contributions from Mr. Keating, and their actions later became the subject of a lengthy ethics investigation into what became known as the case of the Keating Five. In 1991, the Senate censured Mr. Cranston and reprimanded the others for "poor judgment.''
The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The five senators – Alan Cranston (Democrat of California), Dennis DeConcini (Democrat of Arizona), John Glenn (Democrat of Ohio), John McCain (Republican of Arizona), and Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat of Michigan) – were accused of improperly intervening in 1987 on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was the target of a regulatory investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The FHLBB subsequently backed off taking action against Lincoln.
Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed in 1989, at a cost of over $3 billion to the federal government. Some 23,000 Lincoln bondholders were defrauded and many investors lost their life savings. The substantial political contributions Keating had made to each of the senators, totaling $1.3 million, attracted considerable public and media attention. After a lengthy investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee determined in 1991 that Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle had substantially and improperly interfered with the FHLBB’s investigation of Lincoln Savings, with Cranston receiving a formal reprimand. Senators Glenn and McCain were cleared of having acted improperly but were criticized for having exercised “poor judgment”.