M. David Howell's Debts May Total $60 Million

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Business on Oct. 28, 2002. It is being republished as part of Arkansas Business' 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here.

M. David Howell, the former bank CEO in Little Rock and Fayetteville who died in a Beverly Hills hotel on Oct. 23, may have received $60 million or more from investors to whom he promised exorbitant returns, sources have told Arkansas Business.

Many of Howell’s investors — who might prefer to think of themselves as creditors — were friends and fellow members at Pleasant Valley Country Club. They include brothers Sam and Robert Vogel of Little Rock; Richard T. Smith, chairman of Smith Associated Bank Corp. (SABCO) of Hot Springs; Carol Reaves, president of SABCO-owned Stephens Security Bank in Ouachita County); former Razorbacks football player and banker Mickey Cissell; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; and Jones’ brother-in-law, Danville banker John Chambers.

Another victim was Bank of America, which honored almost $2.15 million worth of Howell’s checks during the first week of this month because he assured his bankers that he would be receiving wire transfers to cover the amounts.

Howell’s whereabouts were unknown until Thursday morning, when the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed that he had been found dead in a hotel room in Beverly Hills the previous day.

There were no obvious signs of foul play, according to coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey, but no autopsy had been performed as of Thursday.

Howell had checked into the posh Peninsula Hotel on Monday, Oct. 21. Unidentified “family members” asked the staff to check on Howell’s welfare about 9 p.m. CDT on Wednesday after they were unable to reach him.

Hotel staff found Howell unresponsive and called for paramedics, who pronounced him dead and attempted no medical intervention.

He was identified by his Arkansas driver’s license.

According to the coroner’s report, Howell had a history of alcohol, cocaine and prescription drug abuse, and he had been released from the Betty Ford Center, a substance abuse rehabilitation center at Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Oct. 14. When he had checked into the rehab center and where he was between Oct. 14 and 21 could not be determined.

Bounced Checks

Bank of America sued Howell in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Oct. 16, the day after the Arkansas Securities Department announced that it had started an investigation into Howell’s business dealings. On Oct. 17, the ASD issued a cease-and-desist order against Howell that gave the first hints as to his business plan. It said that Howell had sold at least $15 million worth of unsecured promissory notes to at least 16 investors in Arkansas, Texas and Tennessee by promising them annual returns of 10-50 percent on pooled investments in the public securities and commodities markets.



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