UM official to be named RTC's chief financial officer


WASHINGTON -- As part of its overhaul of the savings and loan cleanup, the Clinton administration plans to name a University of Maryland official as chief financial officer of the Resolution Trust Corp.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger C. Altman is scheduled to announce the appointment of the official, Donna H. Cunninghame, today. He said in an interview that the choice of an accountant who is vice chancellor for finance at the university reflected his determination to revamp the agency's management and the way it disposes of roughly $100 billion in assets of bankrupt savings and loans.

The changes are needed, other officials said, because the agency in the past concentrated on selling assets rapidly, without paying enough attention to whether its contractors were performing properly or whether the agency was getting full value.

Officials pointed to recent audits as exemplifying the agency's problems. In one, the agency's inspector general found that more than $197,000 of $460,000 in bills submitted by a Florida law firm were questionable.

Several of the firm's lawyers recorded working 18 to 51 hours in a single day, including up to 15 hours for the agency and the rest for other clients. The firm billed the agency for research into the firm's own potential conflicts of interest.

Although the firm explained the discrepancies in billing hours as a result of bookkeeping procedures in which one day's work could appear on another day's work sheets, the inspector general rejected this explanation and recommended that the agency seek refunds.

In the interview Friday, Mr. Altman, who has been acting as the agency's chief executive while a permanent replacement is sought, said Resolution Trust would double the number of auditors it used to supervise its contractors. In addition, he said, the agency is drafting a new business plan that will seek to increase the government's return from the disposition of assets.

Another change, he said, is installing new computer software that for the first time allows the agency to keep up with all the recommendations of auditors who have found Resolution Trust to be mismanaged.

"There is no stronger step we can take than put in place a strong management," Mr. Altman said, expressing amazement that the agency, which is as big as the top half-dozen or so financial institutions in the country, had been working without a chief financial officer.

Since 1985, Ms. Cunninghame has run the finances of the University of Maryland, which has 11 campuses and an annual operating budget of $1.8 billion. Before that, she worked at a student loan foundation with a $250 million investment portfolio. She also worked at a food distribution company and at the accounting firm Peat Marwick & Mitchell, among other jobs.

Mr. Altman has put together a series of management changes as the administration seeks final passage of a bill to spend roughly $32 billion on the savings and loan cleanup.

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