Gov. Richard F. Celeste today held a summit meeting with Ohio bankers but was unable to reach an agreement on a plan to rescue 71 state-chartered savings and loan associations, closed Friday for a three-day "banking holiday" after nervous depositors began withdrawing funds.
Today's five-hour session, held at the pink granite headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, was the second gathering of state financial leaders in two days. Bank leaders left the meeting refusing to comment, and Celeste said tonight that discussions will continue through the weekend. He hinted, however, that the closed savings institutions may not reopen Monday.
Under pressure to resolve the biggest crisis of his political career, the governor has set the goal of bringing the institutions and their 500,000 depositors under federal protection.
Representatives of major Ohio banks reportedly were asked Friday to establish a corporation to would take over the closed savings firms in an attempt to put them under federal insurance protection. But Celeste said tonight that such reports were inaccurate.
There also reportedly have been discussions of federal insurance protection for the remaining, stronger savings and loan institutions, about half the number of those now closed. It has been proposed that weaker institutions merge to form one company that might qualify for federal insurance.
Ohio legislators, meanwhile, have been told to be ready to go into emergency session Sunday to deal with any changes in state law that could help resolve the crisis.
"I wouldn't call any proposal out of the running at this point," a worn Celeste told reporters. "I wouldn't say I'm discouraged. I realize that in something like this, legal documents aren't drawn, let alone signed, in 24 hours."
Celeste, fearing a run on deposits, Friday declared a three-day "bank holiday" at all state-chartered savings and loan institutions, which are insured by a privately held fund.
It was the most far-reaching such action since President Franklin D. Roosevelt shut down all the nation's banks during the Great Depression, officials said.
The run on deposits was precipitated by the closing last week of a 72nd institution, the Cincinnati-based Home State Savings Association. It closed its doors after suffering severe losses in the collapse of a Florida investment firm, ESM Government Securities Inc.
Home State's deposits were insured by the Ohio Deposit Guarantee Fund, a privately held, state-regulated firm. The failure of Home State is expected to deplete the entire $130 million fund, leaving other state-chartered savings and loan institutions unprotected.
The Ohio legislature Wednesday approved creation of a second fund, to be financed with $50 million in state loans and $40 million from savings and loan institutions. But this failed to rebuild public confidence and long lines of depositors Thursday withdrew millions of dollars from some firms.
According to state officials, the New York-based Citicorp, the nation's largest financial company, has expressed interest in buying Home State Savings, and flew two planeloads of executives to Ohio to examine the company's books.
In the past, Ohio bankers have been fearful of takeovers by large out-of-state banks and have supported legislation to make that difficult. But a bill introduced in the legislature this week would allow Citicorp or another out-of-state bank to buy Home State.
The industry's problems presented a statewide political and economic crisis for Celeste, a Democrat in his first term.
Marvin L. Warner, owner of Home State Savings, is a political ally of the governor and donated $36,000 to Celeste's 1982 campaign. Warner, a former ambassador to Switzerland and one of the state's leading Democratic fund-raisers was appointed chairman of the Ohio Building Authority after Celeste's election.
The governor announced Warner's resignation Wednesday, distancing himself from Warner slightly. But the political liabilities still are there, accented by news reports that Warner withdrew $36.8 million from Home State before it closed.
Meanwhile, savings and loan firms attempted to reassure uneasy customers. Directors of Mentor Savings in suburban Cleveland stood outside their offices Friday, for example, telling customers that their money is safe. Several firms defied the governor's order, remaining open until late morning.
Other firms launched radio and newspaper advertising campaigns in an attempt to build confidence. Scioto Savings Association took out a full-page ad in today's Columbus Citizen's Journal saying its parent company Society Corp. had ample assets to support it.
"Scioto Savings doesn't have to worry about raising cash . . . . Society Corporation supports and protects your deposits, you have absolutely no need for concern," the ad said.
Checking-account customers at many savings firms found themselves short of cash as the weekend began. Some supermarkets and banks announced that they would continue to honor checks from all savings institutions, except Home State.
But others refused to cash such checks, provoking anger. "There was no reason for these banks to refuse our checks because those checks are as good as our customers and us," said Homer E. Hartke, vice president of Surety Savings and Loan Co. in Dover.
Others complained that Celeste's order had unnecessarily harmed people and damaged the reputation of the savings and loan industry.
"Our customers know how strong and safe we are," Jack Gibson, a loan officer at Equitable Savings and Loan Co. in Lancaster, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"I think he Celeste is panicking people," said Dorothy Scaffidi, a Cleveland homemaker. "A lot of people have their life savings here. I feel panicked myself. What's to happen to us if the banks all close?"
Forty-two of the 71 closed institutions are located in the Cincinnati area, and concerns are highest here.
Celeste has promised to continue daily visits to the city until the crisis is resolved.