At the time of the investigation by the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency of the charges preferred against Mr. Williams in opposition to his confirmation as Comptroller of the Currency, Milton E. Ailes, vice-president of the Riggs National Bank of Washington, testified before the committee that Mr. Williams was particularly hostile and vindictive towards him because of his connections with the National City Bank of New York and the Seaboard Air Line, he having succeeded Mr. Williams on the board of directors of the railroad company.
Mr. Ailes charged that Mr. Williams, while Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, resorted to extraordinary methods to obtain information with which to attack the National City Bank of New York, and that in furtherance of this purpose had instructed national bank examiners to search the confidential files of certain banks in Richmond, Va., and Chattanooga, Tenn., to see if he could find any evidence of an incriminating nature against the National City Bank and the Riggs National Bank or any of their officers, and that these examiners abstracted from the files of these banks original confidential papers and brought them to Washington.
He charged further that the national bank examiners for New York City in examining some of the banks singled out Seaboard Air Line loans and instructed the banks to dispose of them, intimating that this action on the part of the examiner was taken by direction of Mr. Williams.
Mr. Ailes also reverted to the Miss Taylor incident, hereinbefore referred to, and charged that the manner in which Mr. Williams conducted the investigation of that matter was another evidence of his hostility to him and the National City Bank.
As is usual in investigations by a Congressional Committee, the rules of evidence were not strictly adhered to in taking testimony, consequently a good deal of extraneous and irrelevant testimony, hearsay and innuendo were introduced.
The effect of the whole proceeding was simply to consume time, delay the confirmation of Mr. Williams and intensify the strained relations existing between him and some of the managing officers of the Riggs National Bank, as subsequent events fully verified.
In his first annual report to Congress in 1914, Mr. Williams referred to an article published in the New York Tribune on December 10, 1913, in which an attack was made upon him and the Treasury Department in connection with the use of Treasury funds to avoid the failure of the United States Trust Company. He charged the newspaper with being hostile to the administration and that the article in question was "instigated and promoted by individuals connected with a local national bank which was affiliated with a banking interest in New York City, also hostile to the administration, and which under the previous administration had enjoyed special favors and privileges from the Government, particularly in connection with the Treasury Department".
While the names of the particular banks to which he had reference were not mentioned, it was clearly understood that they were the National City Bank of New York and the Riggs National Bank of Washington.
He stated that the charges embraced in this newspaper attack were investigated by the Banking and Currency Committee of the United States Senate and were found to be false, unprovoked and without the slightest justification or excuse, and that while he had been the special object of attack by the newspaper and banking interests referred to, his nomination to be Comptroller of the Currency was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 19, 1914, with but one dissenting vote, and that this dissenting vote was from a member of the opposite political party, who stated that his objection was entirely impersonal and was based upon economical issues.
Almost immediately following the assumption by Mr. Williams of the duties of Comptroller the Riggs National Bank became the object of his special attention. An examination of this bank was commenced by national bank examiners and continued without interruption for the period of almost one year. Every transaction of the bank in connection with loans and investments from the date of its organization in 1896 to the date of the examination was exhaustively investigated and expensive legal counsel was employed to assist the examiner in interrogating the officers of the bank under oath. Numerous special statements and sworn reports were called for by Mr. Williams, and finally he called for a sworn statement showing all loans made to officers of the bank since the date of its organization in 1896, and the interest paid on such loans, and all loans made to any member of an officer's family. This information was required to be furnished within one week.
Section 5213 U. S. R. S. provides that every national bank which fails to make and transmit within the time specified any report required by the Comptroller of the Currency under authority of Sections 5211 and 5212 of the Revised Statutes shall be subject to a fine of one hundred dollars a day, and if any bank delays or refuses to pay the penalty imposed after it has been assessed by the Comptroller, the amount of the penalty may be retained by the Treasurer of the United States, upon the order of the Comptroller, out of the interest, as it may become due to the bank on its bonds deposited with the Treasurer to secure circulation, and that all such sums so collected shall be covered into the Treasury of the United States.
Under date of March 9, 1915, the Riggs National Bank addressed a communication to the Comptroller, acknowledging receipt of one of his letters, and stating that during the previous nine months the bank had received more than forty letters from the Comptroller, every one of which contained insulting imputations or insinuations against the integrity or veracity of some of its officers. Much of the information requested, it was stated, the Comptroller had no right under the law to call for and the bank could very properly have refused to comply with his demands. But his communications were answered in the expectation that when he was fully advised in regard to the affairs of the bank and the conduct of its officers, his sense of official obligations would prevail over his personal feelings and restrain him from abusing the power of his great office to gratify his personal resentment. His last letter, however, it was stated, had made it manifest that the forbearance of the bank's officers had only invited more persistent attack, and, therefore, they were convinced that the Comptroller was actuated in his course only by personal hostility toward some of the bank's officers.