With coffee and cookies set out for the customers and new green and black signs on the walls, eight branches of the defunct Community Savings & Loan were reopened yesterday under the ownership of the Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank Corp.
The Mellon takeover of the Bethesda-based thrift gives its 20,000 depositors access to $324 million in funds for the first time since August. The state froze deposits then, and later forced the thrift into conservatorship after real estate partnerships set up by Community's subsidiary, Equity Programs Investment Corp. defaulted on $1.5 billion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.
Some of those depositors turned out early yesterday morning to withdraw their money. "I need the money for tuition; I have two kids in college," said Mary Goodwin, a Silver Spring resident.
Others, such as Angelo Sapienza of Rockville, came, asked questions, made some changes in their accounts to qualify for a higher rate of interest and then left their money with Mellon, which is federally insured. "It's as safe here as anywhere," Sapienza said.
"It's exactly what we expected -- a lot of people coming to kick our tires and see if we are all right," said Barrie G. Christman, 33, the newly appointed president of Mellon Bank of Maryland.
A Mellon spokesman said last night that about 1,500 of Community's customers went into their accounts for withdrawals or deposits or to transfer money from one investment to another. The spokesman said most of the transactions were transfers, with the money staying in the bank.
Christman and Gov. Harry Hughes, both wearing hard hats and big smiles, stood by yesterday morning as a crane hoisted a Mellon Bank sign into position on the branch at 2335 Glenallan Ave. in Wheaton.
The terms of the sale of Community required that the state pay Mellon $130.4 million in cash and pledge an additional $40 million to offset possible future losses from Community's real estate holdings. Mellon assumes $179 million of Community's assets.
For Mellon, the nation's 11th largest banking concern, the deal provided a ticket into the Maryland market ahead of other Pennsylvania banks, which are barred from entering Maryland until July 1, 1987.
For customers, the Mellon takeover means having their deposits covered by federal insurance through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. up to $100,000 per account.
And for the State of Maryland, it "represents another final step toward solving what could have been one of the largest financial crises of Maryland," Hughes said. He added, "I'd like to see one more day like today," a reference to the state's unsolved problem with First Maryland Savings & Loan of Silver Spring, which remains in conservatorship. Today is a court-ordered deadline for the thrift to be placed in receivership, but the governor said the state will ask for an extension.
In a related matter, Hughes said that he personally disagrees with any settlement that might allow Jeffrey Levitt, the former president of Old Court Savings & Loan of Baltimore, to plead guilty and be freed prior to sentencing. Levitt faces a 25-count indictment accusing him of taking $14.6 million from Old Court and one other thrift, and his lawyers are reported to be plea-bargaining with prosecutors.
Levitt is serving an 18-month prison sentence on contempt of court charges for violating a court-ordered spending limit.
"I don't think he Levitt should have 10 free minutes . . . he has caused a lot of harm to a lot of people," Hughes said.
Also yesterday, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board approved the merger of Maryland's 2nd National Building and Loan Inc. with the small Greenwood (Del.) Building and Loan Association, 2nd National officials announced.