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Regulator Let IndyMac Bank Falsify Report
Such a downgrade would threaten IndyMac's survival. Thrifts classified as "adequately capitalized" need special permission from regulators to gather deposits through brokers who funnel money from investors around the country. The use of brokers is restricted to healthy institutions because the money is seen as "hot," meaning that investors are quick to move money around, which can destabilize a weak institution.
At the end of March, 36 percent of IndyMac's $18.7 billion deposit base came through brokers, according to the company's regulatory filings.
IndyMac executives, who learned about the problem in early May, wanted permission to inject $18 million into the company's capital cushion. But that would solve the problem only if the bank could pretend the money was injected at the end of March.
Thorson wrote that Dochow gave his permission during a May 9 conference call, and the company submitted the new numbers.
The company's first-quarter earnings report, filed on May 12, includes the same numbers sent to banking regulators, apparently repeating the overstatement of the company's actual capital cushion as of March 31. The filing goes on to describe the company as "well capitalized."
Securities experts said the filing could raise legal issues because it is a crime to knowingly make false statements in the financial records of a public company.
The new numbers also averted an intervention by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which could have acted to limit the eventual cost of IndyMac's failure. The FDIC now estimates the cost at about $8.9 billion. The agency is funded by the banking industry.
"It is their job to be a cop," said Bart Dzivi, a lawyer who represents financial services institutions in Northern California. "But Darrel Dochow and senior management take the view, 'We're working with these institutions to help them with their problems.' They see themselves as consultants, not cops."
A spokesman for Thorson declined to expand on his statement that other banks were allowed to make similar revisions to financial statements. Asked at a briefing with members of Congress whether he would describe the problems as "systemic," Thorson responded, "Yes," according to a congressional aide who attended the briefing.
Dochow was appointed regional director in September 2007 after serving as the No. 2 in the western region. Dochow got the job shortly after playing a leading role in persuading Countrywide to move under OTS supervision, a major coup for the agency, which is funded by fees from the companies it oversees. He was paid $230,000 in 2007, according to government records.
Dochow's efforts to help IndyMac extended beyond his support for the bank's revised financial filings.
At another point last spring, Dochow limited the scope of a review by OTS regulators of IndyMac's portfolio of loans and other assets, overruling the advice of others in the agency, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.
The current episode echoes Dochow's involvement in the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan.
In September 1987 Dochow halted an examination of Lincoln, which was meant to determine whether the bank had an adequate capital cushion, at the request of his then-boss, Federal Home Loan Bank Board Chairman M. Danny Wall, according to a congressional investigation. Attorneys for Lincoln and its chief executive, Keating, had threatened to sue the bank board, OTS's predecessor, if the exam went ahead.
When the exam finally happened eight months later, it revealed that Lincoln was engaged in unsafe, unsound lending practices, booking inappropriate income and inappropriately sending money to its holding company. The company was placed in conservatorship soon thereafter and taxpayers eventually spent $2.7 billion bailing it out. Dochow was demoted and sent to a regional job.
Then-Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at hearings in November 1990 that Dochow had been carrying out the will of his superiors. Schumer noted that Dochow said in a statement that he got the impression the bank board "would like to see the Lincoln matter resolved amicably."
"In a sense, it's difficult to blame Mr. Dochow, because he apparently was simply carrying out orders, the desires of his superior, to resolve this amicably," Schumer said. "Unfortunately, that desire cost us billions of dollars. And I think it's that attitude that's the real problem here."