Not suprisingly, Second National Building & Loan Inc. yesterday received approval for Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. coverage of its deposits. Like Chevy Chase Savings and Loan, which gained FSLIC protection almost a month ago, Second National applied for federal coverage last summer, long before Maryland's recent S&L crisis mushroomed.
Yesterday's approval brings to 25 the number of former privately insured Maryland S&Ls that have qualified for federal deposit insurance coverage since the state initiated sweeping changes for the industry a month ago. Although generally expected to be a slow process, the rate of approvals has been remarkably fast.
Swift action by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the FSLIC, its insurance arm, is a positive response to Maryland's S&L crisis. The negative aspect of the reorganization of the state's S&L industry is the apparent difficulty many of the 77 or so state-insured associations are having in qualifying for federal insurance.
More than a month has passed since the state took control of the private fund that insured deposits at Maryland S&Ls and imposed the deadline for federal insurance. While these steps and others have had the outward appearance of ending the S&L crisis, several associations have another crisis on their hands.
To be sure, the current crisis differs from the one that was precipitated by management problems at Old Court Savings and Loan and difficulties reported at Merritt Savings and Loan. The deadlines for obtaining federal insurance -- one year for associations with assets of $40 million or more, two years for those with assets of less than $40 million but more than $15 million, and four years for those with less than $15 million -- mean state-insured bait.
Although the deadlines seemed reasonable when established by the governor and the legislature, the difficulty many S&Ls face in qualifying for federal insurance suggests some may not meet those deadlines. Satisfying the FSLIC's net-worth requirement (at least 5 percent more assets than liabilities) for insurance protection is proving to be more difficult than many had anticipated.
The state may have created a Catch-22 scenario in an effort to clean up the mess at Old Court and end the crisis that resulted in a run on other associations. Legislation designed to force former privately insured S&Ls to seek FSLIC coverage could put the state at risk if enough associations fail to meet the deadlines.
Realizing that some S&Ls could not meet the FSLIC net-worth requirement, the state authorized an additional $100 million that could be used to purchase net-worth certificates from associations to help them qualify. Now, however, there is serious doubt that the bank board will allow those certificates to be counted as part of an S&L's net worth.
"The bank board will never let that money be part of the funds as long as there is a claim on it," declared an industry official. Besides, he added, "If I were a delegate to the General Assembly , I would be disinclined to allow an S&L to take that money for insurance approval and know that I couldn't get it back to cover deposits" backed by the state.
Some S&L officials had counted on recovering funds that had been held as member deposits by the defunct Maryland Savings-Share Insurance Corp. But the state maintains that the $160 million fund must be preserved to protect taxpayers from financial losses that might develop while Old Court is in conservatorship. The truth is, nobody knows how big a loss officials might uncover at Old Court.
So where does that leave those S&Ls that face difficulty in raising their net worth to acceptable levels? The choices may not seem palatable, but it's clear that officials of those institutions will have to swallow them or close shop.
For one thing, those who hope to stay in business will have to raise capital in a public sale of stock or through a private placement. The latter may be easier, given that doubt about the financial strength of those institutions lingers in the public's mind.
Principal investors and founders of mutual S&Ls may find it necessary to obtain personal loans and invest the funds as assets in those associations. Or MDIF-insured S&Ls may want to consider selling portions of their loan portfolios and using the profits to supplement assets. Finally, merging with an FSLIC-insured association may be the only face-saving choice left.
It took Chevy Chase and Second National -- two of the state's better-managed and stronger associations -- almost a year to win FSLIC approval. Their applications and eventual approvals are the results of long and careful planning. In contrast, state-insured S&Ls are starting from scratch and are under pressure, and time is fleeting. For some, a year may not be enough time.