October 19, 2009
By Stephen Bernard
Regulators shut down San Joaquin Bank in California on Friday, marking the 99th failure this year of a federally insured bank.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of San Joaquin Bank, based in Bakersfield, Calif. It had $775 million in assets and $631 million in deposits as of Sept. 29.
The FDIC said the bank’s deposits will be assumed by Citizens Business Bank, based in Ontario, Calif. Its five branches will reopen Monday as branches of Citizens Business Bank.
San Joaquin Bank’s failure is expected to cost the FDIC’s insurance fund $103 million.
Depositors’ money is not in danger. The FDIC is backed by the government, and deposits are guaranteed up to $250,000 per account. But the deposit insurance fund has fallen into the red. The FDIC board recently proposed to have U.S. banks prepay about $45 billion of their insurance premiums – three years’ worth.
That plan isn’t a long-term remedy for the depleted fund. But it would spare ailing banks the immediate cost of an alternative idea: paying an emergency fee for the second time this year. And the FDIC still has billions in loss reserves apart from the insurance fund.
The 99 bank failures this year compare with 25 last year and three in 2007. It’s the highest number in a year since 1992 during the savings-and-loan crisis, when 120 institutions collapsed. Closures peaked during that crisis in 1989, when 534 banks were shuttered.
The most severe financial crisis since the 1930s has hit banks large and small. With unemployment rising, consumer spending slack and businesses shuttered, experts say up to 400 more banks could fail in the next couple of years.
The 99 failures may not fully reflect the depth of banks’ travails. Many more banks – perhaps hundreds – are so weak they could have been shut down already, experts say. Many vulnerable banks are in limbo. Regulators have threatened to close them unless they shore up their balance sheets, but the recession has made it difficult to raise capital or sell assets.
The number of banks on the FDIC’s confidential “problem list” jumped to 416 at the end of June from 305 in the first quarter. That’s the most since June 1994. About 13 percent of banks on the list generally end up failing, according to the FDIC.
Banks have been especially hurt by failed real estate loans. Banks that had lent to seemingly solid businesses are suffering losses as buildings sit vacant. As development projects collapse, builders are defaulting on their loans.
Many of the banks that have failed since the pace accelerated late last year have been small community banks, with less than $1 billion in assets. Failures have been especially concentrated in Georgia, California and Illinois.
Many smaller banks were felled by losses on ordinary loans amid the souring economy, tumbling home prices and spiking unemployment. These loans contrasted with the complex securities favored by Wall Street investment banks that triggered the financial meltdown and global economic crisis.
But some of the failures, both this year and last, have been huge institutions. Seattle-based thrift Washington Mutual Inc. fell in September 2008 with about $307 billion in assets, the largest U.S. bank failure ever. JPMorgan Chase & Co. acquired it for $1.9 billion in a deal brokered by the FDIC.
California lender IndyMac Bank, shut down in July 2008, was the costliest failure for the insurance fund – an estimated $10.7 billion loss.
In August, Montgomery, Ala.-based Colonial Bank, a lender in real estate development, became the biggest U.S. bank to fail this year and the sixth-largest in U.S. history, with about $25 billion in assets. It’s expected to cost the fund about $2.8 billion.
August 27, 2009
By Alison Vekshin
The U.S. added 111 lenders to its list of “problem banks,” a jump that suggests rising bank failures may force the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to deplete a reserve fund that shrank 40 percent this year.
A total of 416 banks with combined assets of $299.8 billion failed the FDIC’s grading system for asset quality, liquidity and earnings in the second quarter, the most since June 1994, the Washington-based FDIC said in a report today. Regulators didn’t identify companies deemed “problem” banks.
The U.S. has taken over 81 banks this year, including Guaranty Financial Group Inc. in Texas and Colonial BancGroup Inc. in Alabama, amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The surge forced regulators to charge banks an emergency fee to raise $5.6 billion for its insurance fund, which fell to $10.4 billion as of June 30 from $13 billion in the previous quarter, the agency said. The total was the lowest since the savings-and-loan crisis in 1993.
“We’re right in the middle of the cycle and it’s a very tough place to be,” said James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, a Washington-based industry group. “We’ll have another couple of more quarters where banks will be working through these loan-loss problems.”
An $11.6 billion increase in loss provisions for bank failures caused the decline in the reserve fund, the FDIC said. If the fund is drained, the FDIC has the option of tapping a line of credit at the Treasury Department that Congress extended in May to $100 billion, with temporary borrowing authority of $500 billion through 2010.
Line of Credit
The agency doesn’t expect to use the Treasury line of credit, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a news conference releasing the data. Bair said the number of problem banks and failures will remain elevated as banks and thrifts continue to clean up their balance sheets.
“For now, the difficult and necessary process of recognizing loan losses and cleaning up balance sheets continues to be reflected in the industry’s bottom line,” she said.
FDIC-insured banks reported a net loss of $3.7 billion in the second quarter, compared with a $5.5 billion gain in the first quarter. The quarterly loss, the second the industry has reported in 18 years, was driven by increased expenses for bad loans, the FDIC said.
Funds set aside by banks to cover loan losses rose to $66.9 billion in the second quarter from $60.9 billion in the first quarter.
More than 150 publicly traded U.S. lenders own nonperforming loans that equal 5 percent or more of their holdings, a level that former regulators say can wipe out a bank’s equity and threaten its survival, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The biggest banks with nonperforming loans of at least 5 percent include Wisconsin’s Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Georgia’s Synovus Financial Corp., according to Bloomberg data. Among those exceeding 10 percent, the biggest in the 50 U.S. states was Michigan’s Flagstar Bancorp. All said in second- quarter filings they’re “well-capitalized” by regulatory standards, which means they’re considered financially sound.
The FDIC insures deposits at 8,195 institutions with $13.3 trillion in assets. The agency is a state-bank regulator that insures bank customer deposits, helps find buyers for failing banks and liquidates lenders that have collapsed.
The agency this week approved new guidelines for private- equity firms that invest in failed banks to increase the pool of buyers beyond traditional lenders and reduce costs to the banking industry and taxpayers.