The federal government is considering creating a company to buy and hold repossesed properties from failing savings and loans until real estate prices increase in Texas and other economically depressed areas, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board said yesterday.
The bank board said it also might put healthy loans and other valuable property it owns into sick S&Ls in Texas to make them more attractive to potential buyers.
The proposals are two of many the bank board might adopt to cope with mounting S&L failures, especially in Texas, California and Florida, where the potential cost to the government, taxpayers and consumers is greatest.
Both proposals will be considered in a study of the Texas S&L problem that is scheduled for completion Jan. 1, said bank board spokesman Karl Hoyle. The bank board has said it will take no drastic action on several dozen failing Texas S&Ls until the study is finished.
The idea of forming a company to hold assets will also be included in a separate study Congress has ordered the bank board to complete by Feb. 1, Hoyle said.
"We haven't ruled out anything," he said.
In a related action yesterday, a federal banking regulator ruled that two nationally chartered banks in Texas can ignore state law that severely limits bank branches in the state.
Texas officials said yesterday they will sue the federal government to try to block the ruling, even though the government won a court battle this year on a nearly identical issue in Mississippi, officials in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said.
Texas law allows state and federally chartered banks to have branches only in the county where they are headquartered. But Texas law permits savings and loans that compete with banks to have branches anywhere in the state.
The comptroller, which charters and regulates national banks, ruled that national banks may have branches in the same area as the state-chartered S&Ls they compete with.
The comptroller's office said that 1,000 of the nation's 5,000 national banks are in Texas. The ruling will mean that many Texas banks -- which are hard hit by depressed energy and real estate prices -- will be able to shave operating costs by running branches rather than full banks from one county to the next, the comptroller's office said.
Regulators have said that the limited ability of banks to branch out in Texas has led to overcrowding -- and competition -- in the bank market in the state. The government expects holding companies to combine banks by turning them into branches, thereby reducing competition.