The Federal Home Loan Bank Board has directed Community Savings and Loan to sell seven subsidiaries that helped propel it to the top ranks of Maryland's thrift industry, officers of the Bethesda thrift said yesterday.
The directive will likely make it more difficult for Community to obtain federal deposit insurance, the officers said.
Clayton McCuistion, chairman of the $443 million savings and loan company, said that bank board officials told Community that its deposits will not be insured by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. (FSLIC) if it does not sell seven companies active in the profitable field of real estate syndication.
McCuistion, who normally shuns publicity about the workings of Community, issued a brief prepared statement saying that the federal directive had "created a great deal of uncertainty in our operations."
McCuistion and another Community officer said the association's statement was prompted largely by rumors on Wall Street yesterday that Community and its chief real estate subsidiary, the Equity Programs Investment Corp. (EPIC), were in financial straits.
Community, which was founded in 1974, merged with EPIC two years ago and through the subsidiary carved out a highly profitable niche in real estate syndication across the country.
EPIC and its sister companies specialized in the syndication of single-family homes, a system under which the companies acquired model homes or vacant houses in large subdivisions and sold them to investors.
The investors would receive certain tax benefits, and the companies would be able to sell the homes at a profit after four to five years, James B. Deerin Jr., Community vice president, said.
Today, limited partnerships controlled by EPIC own more than 20,000 homes, mostly in Sun Belt states but also in the Washington suburbs, Deerin said.
"The EPIC sale should mean nothing for ordinary account holders," McCuistion said. "There is no danger to their deposits."
Community officers said the thrift should obtain federal deposit insurance well before the end of the year, the deadline imposed by Maryland state officials in the wake of a crisis of confidence that shook the state's $10 billion thrift industry earlier this year.
Like more than 20 other S&Ls in the state, Community, whose 30,000 depositors are now subject to a $1,000-a-month withdrawal limit, must obtain federal insurance or face being merged with another financial institution or forced into conservatorship.
Under the federal system of deposit insurance, a savings and loan firm's readily available assets must exceed its liabilities by 5 percent. That so-called "net worth" rule has been a major stumbling block for many thrifts trying to obtain insurance, and McCuistion indicated that the bank board directive could play havoc with Community's ongoing effort to satisfy the 5 percent rule.
Community, which has nine branches in Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, must have roughly $21 million to satisfy the rule, McCuistion said in an interview.
So far, the thrift has raised between $5 million and $7 million towards that goal, he said.
McCuistion said the thrift had no advance notice to carefully prepare the EPIC sale and guarantee that its net worth will not be reduced.
"This is bad news in the sense that we're under time pressure," Deerin said. "But we will do what it takes to obtain FSLIC."
Douglas H. Green, a bank board spokesman, said the directive to Community, issued last week, was in keeping with the board's philosophy that federally insured savings and loan associations should engage in only a limited number of real estate ventures, concentrating instead on such traditional lending practices as acquiring deposits and issuing home mortgage or automobile loans.