Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste yesterday declared a bank holiday for 70 state-chartered and privately insured savings and loan associations to stop a run on deposits as U.S. and state officials worked to devise a plan to restore customer confidence.
Federal officials and bank executives said they cannot recall an action like Celeste's since President Franklin D. Roosevelt shut all the nation's banks in 1933 to stem a Depression panic.
Celeste acted after depositors spent Thursday night camped outside some savings and loans, waiting until they opened so they could withdraw their funds. After issuing the order, Celeste criss-crossed the state to explain his actions and then met with Federal Reserve officials in Cleveland to fashion a plan that would allow the thrifts to reopen.
The panic began when Home State Savings Bank of Cincinnati was stung by $150 million in losses as a result of its dealing with E.S.M. Government Securities Inc., a Florida securities dealer that was closed March 4. Home State's losses could overwhelm the $130 million in assets controlled by the Ohio Deposit Guaranty Fund, which backs deposits at the 71 state-chartered savings and loans.
Federal and state officials had tried all week to calm depositors. Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Karen Horn declared that the central bank was prepared to provide cash to otherwise sound institutions facing unusually heavy withdrawals as a result of Home State's losses. Wednesday, the state legislature created a new insurance fund to back deposits at the 70 savings and loans and excluded Home State from coverage.
But when banking officials failed to calm depositors after a news conference Thursday night, Celeste took the virtually unprecedented action of closing the beleaguered institutions until they could be strengthened and confidence in them restored.
After a 90-minute meeting with Horn at the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Celeste said he hoped a scheme could be devised to place all the banks under some sort of federal insurance guarantee.
None of the 217 federally insured savings and loans in Ohio -- some of them with state charters, some with federal charters -- faced unusual withdrawals last week and all remained open yesterday, state and federal officials said. Ohio's federally insured institutions have deposits of about $40 billion. The 70 institutions temporarily closed have deposits of about $4 billion.
Late yesterday one of the shuttered institutions, Columbia Savings and Loan of Cincinnati, was conditionally admitted to the federal system and put under the umbrella of federal deposit insurance.
Edwin Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which regulates and insures federal savings and loans, said his agency will act as quickly as possible on any applications for federal insurance by other Ohio institutions insured by the Ohio Deposit Guaranty Fund.
Officials said seven more savings and loans have applied to the bank board and another score has made inquiries.
Government sources said some other Ohio savings and loans might be eligible for federal insurance, but that some had been so weakened by heavy withdrawals that additional capital would have to be added before they could be reopened or qualify for federal insurance.
Early yesterday, Celeste said he hoped to reopen the institutions Monday. But at his press conference yesterday afternoon, he said the holiday might have to last longer and vowed he would not reopen the savings and loans until they were "viable."
State regulators closed Home State last Saturday after frightened depositors launched a run on the Cincinnati institution. Home State, the biggest institution insured by the Ohio fund, had deposits of $700 million and assets of $1.4 billion.
Home State was decimated by losses on loans it made to E.S.M., transactions that appeared to be fully covered by government securities E.S.M. put up as collateral for the loans. But E.S.M. reportedly pledged securities to more than one creditor and had been doing so for years to cover up losses and keep enough cash coming in to stay in business. Details on Page D10.
The state of Ohio is searching for a buyer for Home State, but to find one, the insurance fund undoubtedly will have to swallow many of Home State's losses. So far, state officials have been unable to find another Ohio institution willing to purchase it.
Citicorp -- the nation's largest bank company, which in recent years has bought three big ailing savings and loans in California, Illinois and Florida -- is studying Home State. Citicorp officials said yesterday they are not sure whether they are interested in purchasing Home State.
Kenneth Cox, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, said yesterday that Citicorp is in "active negotiations" with Ohio officials and that other banks that he would not name are looking at Home State.
Depositors at Home State have not had access to their funds since the institution was closed. Depositors in the 70 institutions closed yesterday will not be able draw on their accounts until they are reopened by Celeste.
A federally insured institution in Cleveland, Cardinal Federal Savings Bank, said late yesterday it would provide emergency cash up to $500 to depositors at Cleveland-area savings and loans shut yesterday.
Federal officials and savings and loan analysts said so far the panic among depositors at the privately insured savings and loans has not spread, either to federally insured banks and savings and loans or to institutions in other states that are insured by private companies. At least six states, including Maryland, have savings and loan associations insured by private companies.
Nationwide, there are 3,368 savings and loan associations, of which 2,917 are insured by the federal government. Federally insured savings and loans account for 98 percent of the deposits. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. has about $6 billion in assets, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board has proposed an additional assessment of $250 million on its members to strengthen it.
All but a handful of the 14,700 commercial banks in the country are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which has a $17 billion trust fund. Both the FDIC and FSLIC are funded by assessments on member institutions and income from investments. Both, however, have the right to borrow from the U.S. Treasury in an emergency.