Thousands of Washington area residents may be forced to reorganize their finances after Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes yesterday limited withdrawals to no more than $1,000 per account from the state's 102 privately insured savings and loan associations each month.
The $1,000 limit, however, does not apply to any deposits made after the governor's order was issued.
Nor does the action affect the 46 federally chartered savings and loans in Maryland or the 13 state-chartered but federally insured institutions. By law, federally chartered institutions must be insured by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., and state-chartered institutions that meet federal standards may opt for the federal insurance program.
Hughes' order does affect the approximately 45 branches of privately insured savings and loan associations in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The biggest privately insured institutions affected are Chevy Chase Savings & Loan and Government Services Savings & Loan. Government Services is owned by Chevy Chase.
Under yesterday's order, depositors in the affected institutions cannot withdraw more than $1,000 from each account, either in cash or by check, during any 30-day period. The first 30-day period began yesterday.
The governor's action creates many problems for depositors and for creditors who accept their checks.
Major retailers such as Giant Food and Safeway Stores said they would not decide until today whether they would accept checks drawn on Maryland institutions affected by the $1,000 withdrawal limit. However, store officials said last night that their inclination was to accept checks for the amount of food purchases, but no more than that.
Representatives of the major utilities serving the Washington metropolitan area -- Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Cos., Washington Gas Light Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co. -- said that if customers cannot pay their bills because of restrictions imposed on their S&L accounts, they should call customer service or billing offices to arrange for delayed payment.
Alan Thomas Fell, Maryland's commissioner of consumer credit, said "most creditors" will be willing to make exceptions for consumers unable to pay their bills, but warned depositors to contact a "creditor before the bills come due." Fell said that consumers who cannot resolve their problems with creditors can call his office at 1-800-492-7521 to seek help.
But savers accumulating money for a down payment on a house or a car or who need money from their savings accounts to meet a major emergency will be hard-pressed if they have no other resources, according to a major Maryland banker.
The order limiting withdrawals, announced at 5 p.m. by Hughes, took effect immediately. It will remain in effect until Maryland officials have solved the problem and can reopen the savings and loans without fear of depositor runs.
As a result, depositors who wrote checks in excess of $1,000 that had not cleared their bank by yesterday will find those checks dishonored if they are presented for payment today or later.
Among depositors who might be affected are those who closed out their accounts at the affected institutions yesterday, received a check for their accounts and deposited them in another bank or savings and loan association.
The governor's executive order yesterday was modeled after a court order obtained by Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs early Monday morning to stop a run on Old Court Savings & Loan Association of Baltimore. The court named Maryland Savings-Share Insurance Corp. conservator for Old Court of Baltimore.
That order said that new deposits, made after the withdrawal limit took effect, were to be treated separately. Nonetheless, federal officials were concerned about whether to make direct payments to accounts in the Maryland savings and loans held by Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries, according to John K. Anderson, assistant Maryland attorney general.
Presumably other financial instituions will continue to wire prearranged deposits to the affected Maryland institutions unless specifically instructed otherwise by the account holder.
Anderson said yesterday that MSSIC was debating whether to seek some amendments to the $1,000 withdrawal limit for payroll accounts or some types of escrow accounts -- such as those holding funds to pay bills in house sales.
Anderson said Maryland officials requested a $1,000-a-month limit on withdrawals because they felt it was enough to enable most depositors to pay essential monthly bills such as rent and mortgage, utilities and food.