Maryland Savings-Share Insurance Corp., the private insurer that protects customer deposits in more than 100 state-chartered savings and loans in that state, is facing its most serious crisis since its founding in 1962.
For the second consecutive day, Old Court Savings and Loan Inc. experienced runs at several branches, sparked by news accounts of its troubles. Armored trucks brought fresh supplies of cash to satisfy withdrawals, believed to have totaled about $15 million on the first day.
Old Court borrowed from the Federal Reserve, and MSSIC stood ready to make available funds from its $90 million liquidity fund, although officials said it had received no request as of yesterday.
MSSIC, which has $295 million in assets, including $90 million in its liquidity fund, has hired Baltimore attorney Stanford Hess to find ways to shore up its reserves. Although the project got under way some time ago, the Old Court crisis has accelerated it, Hess said yesterday. Recommendations for legislation that would be needed to do so will be presented to MSSIC officials early next week.
Among his ideas is for the state to sell a $100 million bond issue. The proceeds would be invested in higher yielding government securities. If the funds had to be used to bail out MSSIC thrifts, a tax would be levied on S&Ls, he said.
Hess also has been negotiating with the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., which insures federally chartered thrifts, in an effort to get the FSLIC to provide backup insurance should a number of MSSIC institutions fail. FSLIC had no comment on Hess' idea except to note that it has never taken that step before.
Hess said that there was "no chance" that MSSIC could be wiped out were Old Court to fail. Although it has $600 million in deposits, compared with MSSIC's $350 million in reserves, Old Court has a lot of cash and government securities that could be sold to pay off customers, Hess said.
In the event an S&L has exhausted all available funds with which to pay off depositors, the Maryland Savings and Loan Division has the power to recommend that a court appoint a conservator. Only once before has MSSIC placed a savings and loan in conservatorship, according to the division's director, Charles Brown. That was a small association in the western part of the state.
The presence of a conservator, however, does not mean that the S&L is insolvent; it signifies that the S&L must reorganize. MSSIC would operate the conservatorship.
Brown expressed satisfaction with the way John Faulkner, who was brought in recently to manage the S&L, has handled his duties as Old Court's operating manager. He added that if a conservator were appointed, he would favor Faulkner.
MSSIC was created in 1962 after a series of S&L failures in Maryland, when it was discovered that the defunct associations had insurance "coverage" with a company that had only $1 million in assets to cover $70 million in deposits. Some people lost their life savings.
Officers of the company, including the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and a former delegate from Baltimore county, were convicted of fraud and sent to prison.
Hess said MSSIC remains necessary because not all Maryland thrifts can qualify for FSLIC insurance, and as a local rather than a federal insurer it can do a superior job because it knows its members better.
State Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery) said the question of private insurance for depository institutions should be debated by legislators. He envisions a time when most Maryland thrifts will be federally insured and the rest will be taken care of by the state.