The state of Maryland has frozen the assets of a Maryland life insurance company controlled by James M. Fail, an Arizona businessman whose federally subsidized takeover of 15 troubled Texas savings and loan institutions is being investigated by a Senate panel.
Maryland officials said they took the action against Chesapeake Life Insurance Co. to prevent its Arizona parent company, which is having financial difficulties, from siphoning its assets.
Last week, the Arizona Department of Insurance suspended the license of the parent company, Farm and Home Life Insurance Co., and placed it under state supervision. Arizona insurance officials disputed the company's own account of its finances and said it is $15 million in the red.
Chesapeake itself was financially solvent at the end of 1989, with assets of $48.5 million and a net worth of $2.4 million, Maryland officials said.
Maryland insurance officials said they froze Chesapeake's Maryland bank accounts last Friday after the Arizona Department of Insurance notified them of the suspension. The freeze was partially lifted yesterday to allow payments of insurance claims.
Under the freeze, Chesapeake needs the approval of state regulators to move its money.
Some Chesapeake checks have bounced and some claims have been delayed since the freeze was imposed, Maryland officials said. "We wanted to fail on the part of safety, even if it meant for three days some claimants were inconvenienced," said Charles Siegel, the state's associate insurance commissioner.
Chesapeake referred questions to a Washington public relations specialist, who could not be reached for comment.
The last time Maryland took such action against an insurance company was in 1985, officials said.
The freeze will remain in effect until the state is satisfied that Chesapeake's policyholders are protected, Siegel said.
Fail, the chairman and majority owner of Farm and Home Life, was promised $1.25 billion in federal subsidies when he took over 15 insolvent Texas thrifts in 1988 while putting up only $1,000 of his own money. The agreement was part of a government effort to unburden itself of troubled thrifts.
Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who is holding hearings on the matter, has said the government should nullify the agreement. Metzenbaum said Fail should have been found ineligible to buy the thrifts because a company he controlled pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1976.