Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes will exempt a variety of special accounts next week from the $1,000-a-month withdrawal limit he imposed on state-chartered savings and loan associations in May, a Hughes aide said yesterday. Starting Monday, some depositors will be able to pay insurance premiums, rents, condominium fees and property taxes out of their accounts in those thrifts, the aide said.
The governor also will allow depositors to exceed the withdrawal limit to pay a debt at a savings and loan if the debt was incurred before May 14. Hughes signed an executive order imposing the withdrawal limit on that date as a way to shore up a thrift industry threatened by revelations of mismanagement at a large Baltimore savings and loan association.
Benjamin Bialek, Hughes' chief legislative aide, said the governor will amend the May 14 order on Monday.
"It's intended to minimize the disruptive effect of the withdrawal limit while protecting the liquidity of the institutions," Bialek said of the amendment.
The governor previously had amended his order on May 22 to exempt payroll and escrow accounts from the $1,000-a-month withdrawal limit. Those exemptions, prompted by complaints from depositors who said the limit prevented them from paying bills, applied to a relatively narrow range of commercial accounts.
Similarly, the exemptions Hughes plans to approve next week apply only to so-called "expense" accounts, special funds that are dedicated solely to the payment of loans or specific expenses such as condominium fees or rent.
As with the earlier exemptions, anyone withdrawing funds under the new rules will be required to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that the funds will be used exclusively for the stated exemption, Bialek said.
The new exemptions would not apply at Old Court Savings and Loan Association of Baltimore, where reports of management changes and possible criminal misconduct by top officers touched off a crisis of confidence in Maryland's $10 billion thrift industry in early May. Nor would exemptions apply at Merritt Commercial Savings and Loan, another Baltimore thrift that, like Old Court, is under conservatorship.
The new exemptions will apply to the more than two dozen thrifts still affected by the withdrawal limit, including several associations in Montgomery and Prince George's counties that list assets of at least $300 million each.
One exemption will apply to expense accounts set up for the payment of so-called "ground rents," a mortgage arrangement peculiar to Maryland that is similar to a 99-year lease, Bialek said.
The exemption allowing payment of debts incurred before May 14 would allow a savings and loan simply to transfer cash from one account to another so that no cash would leave the association, Bialek said.