By 1981, Keating had two thousand employees on his payroll and was one of the largest land developers in Arizona, benefiting from a home building boom in the state.
In February 1984, American Continental Corporation acquired the underperforming Lincoln Savings and Loan Association for $51 million. Much of American Continental's assets were in the form of Arizona real estate, junk bonds, and mortgage-backed securities. Lincoln Savings expanded into aggressive, risky land development deals and financial arrangements, including loans due to American Continental. For most of 1987, American Continental was profitable, but by 1988, losses mounted, due to financial troubles and other bad happenings at Lincoln Savings. By 1989, Lincoln made up 90 percent of American Continental's assets.
On April 13, 1989, American Continental Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The loss of investors' life savings in Lincoln became one of the key events of the 1980s Savings and loan crisis and the core of the Keating Five political scandal.