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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 14, 2005 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Goodbye to the big guyBank values concern analystForgiven, but not forgottenDefense Department negotiator to speak at Stetson
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Goodbye to the big guy

Itis hard to say goodbye to a friend, especially one with as much chutzpah as Michael Schwartzberg o attorney for the damned.

Schwartzberg, who turned 47 last month, had a heart attack and died while driving his car the evening of Jan. 5.

In 20 years as an attorney, he defended nearly 100 murderers, those of the worst kind. Or as his colleague Dick Watts once so aptly put it: iWe get the cop killers, grandmother killers, baby killers o all the ugly ones.i

It was a job his mother, Joanne Schwartzberg, never really understood, he told GCBR (then Tampa Bay Review) in 2001.

Still, he said, iI would practice criminal law for free if I could feed my family and pay my bills.i Then he quoted famed trial attorney Gerry Spence: iCriminal lawyers are the last great warriors of our society.i

Watching Schwartzberg deliver an opening or closing argument in the courtroom was better than Perry Mason re-runs. Heid pick up his bulky body and walk deliberately to the jury box. Then heid begin his monologue o one sure to hold the attention of all in the room.

At 1 p.m. Jan. 14, thereill be a memorial service at the Pinellas Criminal Justice Center, Courtroom No. 1, where Schwartzberg defended murderers such as serial killer James Randall. Itis where he gave some of his best command performances.

Then on Jan. 15, his friends and fellow thespians will honor him at 7 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Little Theatre. In the hours prior to his death, heid rehearsed the lead role of Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Acting and the law were his passions.

His fellow lawyers are taking over his criminal cases, including the defense of six accused murderers, said Jennifer Jones, who worked for Schwartzberg for seven years. So far, Dick Watts, Joe McDermott, Bill Bennett, Jim Martin, Brian Pingor, Rob Love and Bjorn Brunvand have stepped forward to finish the work he left behind even though thereis no money in it for them.

iSome people didnit like him,i Jones said of Schwartzberg. iThey thought he was very brash. O But he had a huge heart. You had to get through the exterior.i

Goodbye to one of our last great warriors.

Bank values concern analyst

Last year was the fifth straight for regional banks to outperform the broader stock market, according to Ryan Beck & Co. analyst Anthony R. Davis.

Nasdaqis index of regional bank stocks was up 10.4% in 2004, compared to an S&P 500 hike of 9%.

But Davis, like other banking observers, is concerned about earnings in the sector falling too far behind stock prices.

The regional banks as a whole are trading at almost 16 times their predicted 2005 earnings. Since 1994, the median P/E has been 13.5.

One factor driving prices skyward is consolidation, says Davis. There were 14,800 American banks in 1984. Now there are 7,500.

iGranted, thatis still vastly more than are needed, but in some parts of the country, scarcity value is becoming an issue,i Davis says in a recent report. iIn many sections of Florida, for example, there are few sizeable publicly traded banks left to buy.i

The supply does seem to be exceeding the demand of out-of-state banks that want to try their hand in Florida and have yet to do so.

iUnquestionably, this ebuy before it disappearsi mentality has played a meaningful role in the expansion of regional bank multiples the last few years,i says Davis. iIronically, the higher valuations, in turn, have served to perpetuate bank mergers.i

For all his hand wringing, however, Davis sees another good year for regional banks. Profits at S&P 500 companies are forecast to rise 6.4%. Profits at the Nasdaq banks are seen going up 9% in 2005.

Forgiven, but not forgotten

Time apparently didnit heal the wounds Hillsborough Circuit Judge Charles iEdi Bergmann and Tampa family law attorney Beth Gilmore Reineke inflicted on each other in their campaigns last year for his judicial post.

Jan. 3 administrative orders issued by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez show he automatically reassigns Reinekeis family law cases from Bergmannis division. Prior to the Aug. 31 election, Menendez had issued a blanket order to reassign Reinekeis cases. Apparently he thought it prudent to continue the reassignments.

Just prior to the primary vote, Reineke filed a complaint on two issues against Bergmann with the Hillsborough County Judicial Campaign Practices Committee. One of the issues questioned whether Bergmann could ethically use the results of a Hillsborough County Bar Association survey that favored him as the best candidate. She lost on both issues.

A few days later, Bergmann filed a complaint against Reineke that cited five instances of campaign violations. One of those issues involved statements she made to GCBR. The committee ruled in his favor on three of the five issues.

Defense Department negotiator to speak at Stetson

Itis time to answer those nagging questions about the countryis Profileration Security Initiative. Retired Col. Guy Roberts will be in town, at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, on Jan. 18 to discuss the initiative.

Roberts, deputy head of the U.S. Delegation to the Biological Weapons Convention, is helping formulate national policies for nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional arms negotiations and halting the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Heis also the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense and principal director of negotiations policy for the Department of Defense.

Whew. What a job.

And if that doesnit sound impressive enough, consider his previous job: He was the former Joint Staff representative to biological warfare and nuclear arms and disarmament issues at the U.N., the Conference on Disarmament and the International Bio Warfare Convention.

Prior to retirement from the Marine Corps, Roberts served as a platoon and company commander, prosecutor and defense attorney (not at the same time), claims officer and legal adviser on diverse international isues.

His speech, which begins at noon, is free and open to the public.

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