Maryland officials and representatives of Chevy Chase Savings and Loan Association have negotiated an agreement under which Chevy Chase will take temporary control of the troubled Old Court Savings and Loan Association of Baltimore, which the state forced into conservatorship three weeks ago.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, who has been supervising the conservatorship of Old Court since it was brought under state control May 13, is expected to sign an order by early next week under which a management team from Chevy Chase -- the state's largest thrift association -- would take over day-to-day operations of Old Court.
Sources said Kaplan is also considering imposing additional withdrawal restrictions on Old Court, where a monthly withdrawal limit of $1,000 an account has been in effect since it was placed under conservatorship.
Among the options being considered by Kaplan, the sources said, is a total ban on withdrawals to stem the continued, though lessened, cash flow from Old Court, whose management problems touched off a massive crisis in public confidence in Maryland's 102 state-chartered thrifts.
Kaplan declined to comment on reports that he would completely ban withdrawals from Old Court, but he said he would be signing an order calling in the Chevy Chase management team sometime next week.
"I find the need to bring in some experts on a really crash basis, people who can evaluate the portfolio accurately," said Kaplan. He said the management team would have control of Old Court for "at least 90 days" to enable the state to "get a handle on what the association is worth in order to make any kind of future plans."
"This is a very positive thing," said Assistant Attorney General Francis X. Pugh of the offer from Chevy Chase, which has assets of $2.2 billion, nearly three times that of Old Court, the state's second largest thrift. "Someone has got to come in and really take control of this. Things cannot be allowed to grind to a halt and fritter away. We were looking for a Chevy Chase."
The management team from Chevy Chase, which would consist of about 10 executives with expertise in asset management, accounting and construction loans, would be charged with assessing and supervising Old Court's far-flung loan portfolio, which includes numerous real estate and construction investments.
"There is a really strong need for a management team to come in, get into all these different loans, to analyze them, evaluate them, service them and find out what we have," Pugh said. "There is a great desire to keep these projects alive and going" to protect the interests of depositors and ultimately the state, which eventually could assume financial responsibility if the thrift is liquidated, he said.
State officials feel that Chevy Chase, the first state-chartered thrift to obtain federal insurance during the recent savings and loan crisis, has far greater expertise than either the state or current Old Court managers to make sense of Old Court's tangled finances.
Old Court's rapid growth from an institution with $140 million in assets three years ago to the state's second largest thrift with $873 million in assets was built on a vast array of commercial, construction and land-development loans that make up almost 70 percent of its assets.
Reports in early May of management changes and possible criminality by Old Court owners touched off a run on deposits at a number of Maryland's privately insured thrifts, and ultimately resulted in the imposition of strict withdrawal limits at the state chartered thrifts by Gov. Harry Hughes. An emergency session of the legislature subsequently enacted a dozen pieces of legislation to deal with the crisis, including laws forcing the larger thrifts to get federal insurance.
In court papers filed by the Maryland attorney general in May, it was revealed that Old Court had made $5.8 million in unsecured loans to officers and directors of the company and permitted them to overdraw their accounts by $5.7 million. It was also reported in court affidavits that Old Court often failed to record proper documentation for its loans.
The Chevy Chase management team would be assigned the task of determining the scope of Old Court's real estate and construction ventures -- many of them out of state -- and evaluating which projects should be continued and which should be canceled.
"We have to be in control," Pugh said. "We don't want to be in default on these projects -- that's not in anybody's interests."
Once Old Court's holdings are sorted out, the state would be in a better position to determine the thrift's ultimate fate, whether it can be sold to another financial institution or liquidated.
In a related development today, the Madison and Bradford Savings and Loan Association of Baltimore, with assets of $62 million, was given final approval for insurance with the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. It thus became the fourth Maryland thrift to win such protection.
Hughes also lifted the withdrawal limits at La Carona Building and Loan of Baltimore, which has $5.5 million in assets, bringing to 61 the number of thrift associations that have resumed normal operations.