Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes today stepped up his public campaign to win federal approval of the sales of two crippled savings and loans, saying that he is close to setting a deadline for federal regulators to accept or reject the proposed transactions.
Speaking at a morning news conference, Hughes said, "We are approaching that point where I am going to have to say we need answers by a certain time" on whether the Federal Home Loan Bank Board will approve the state's proposals to sell Community Savings & Loan of Bethesda and First Maryland Savings and Loan of Silver Spring.
Hughes and his aides are becoming increasingly frustrated by the pace of the bank board's deliberations and its unwillingness to bend its policies to accommodate the sale of Community.
"The process is damned slow and damned tedious," said Thomas H. Maddux, Hughes' secretary of economic and community development who has spearheaded the administration's efforts to resolve its lingering thrift problems by disposing of Community and First Maryland, both financially troubled and under state conservatorship.
The state is counting on the sale of the thrifts to reduce the ultimate cost of the savings and loan crisis and to speed the release of about $1.2 billion in deposits still frozen at Community, First Maryland and a third thrift, Old Court Savings & Loan, which is being liquidated.
The Hughes administration has tentative agreements to sell Community to Meritor Savings Bank, an Arlington-based subsidiary of a Philadelphia financial services company, and to sell First Maryland to Yorkridge Calvert Savings and Loan, a federally insured thrift in Pikesville. But bank board officials have raised a number of objections that have not been resolved despite personal appeals by Hughes to senior federal officials, including Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker.
In the case of Community, the bank board is insisting that Meritor abide by a longstanding federal policy that requires an out-of-state institution that is acquiring a state-chartered thrift to take over a troubled federal thrift as well to reduce pressures on the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp.
Hughes said today that this impediment could be avoided if the bank board would make an exception for Meritor, which has operations in the District as well as in Virginia.
"We don't feel it would create anything more than a limited precedent," said Maddux.
In the case of First Maryland, bank board officials are insisting that Yorkridge Calvert improve its cash position and upgrade its management.
Also today, Hughes accused some leaders of the Maryland Savings and Loan Depositors Committee of making "irresponsible, untrue statements" in their attempts to pressure him to speed the return of frozen funds to the more than 100,000 depositors still affected by the crisis.
Hughes' comment brought an angry response from the depositors committee, whose leaders promised to intensify their campaign to get accounts freed more quickly than under a timetable included in a four-year plan proposed by Hughes and endorsed by legislative leaders.
Meanwhile, a House of Delegates committee today began hearing testimony on an administration- sponsored bill that would totally revamp the state's regulation of savings and loans by sharply restricting their investments and by giving regulators broad new powers to control abuses.
Thrift officials told the committee that the proposed legislation is so strict that it would serve only to force Maryland associations to seek federal charters.
"Everybody will go to the federal system if the bill passes," said Henry Berliner, president of Second National Building and Loan. Traditional, small thrifts "that have committed no wrongs," said Berliner, "would be forced out of business" because they could not