First Maryland Savings and Loan Inc., a large Montgomery County thrift institution whose lending practices in recent years have drawn sharp criticism from state regulators, is now strapped for cash and will have a "tough" time meeting the stringent standards for federal deposit insurance, its president said yesterday.
In an interview in his Silver Spring office, First Maryland President Julian Seidel said he is nonetheless confident that his association, with $440 million in assets, eventually will be protected by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. (FSLIC).
But Seidel added that the uncertainty hanging over the savings and loan he founded 11 years ago has forced business to a virtual standstill and reduced First Maryland's net worth to a fraction of that required for FSLIC protection.
Seidel, who met with federal and state officials this week to assess First Maryland's condition, said he will have to raise roughly $15 million by the end of the year to meet federal requirements governing net worth, which is a cushion of cash designed to protect account holders.
First Maryland is one of three large thrifts in Montgomery County that federal officials are considering for federal savings and loan insurance.
The other two are Community Savings and Loan, a Bethesda thrift with more than $600 million in assets, and Friendship Savings and Loan, another Bethesda thrift that lists assets of more than $300 million.
Industry experts and officials at those two institutions estimate that Community will have to raise $8 million to $12 million and Friendship roughly $6 million to meet the federal net worth requirement.
FSLIC requires its savings and loan associations to have 5 percent more in readily accessible funds than they have in liabilities. First Maryland, the seventh largest thrift in the state, has about 1 percent, as calculated by federal officials, Seidel said.
Under a law the General Assembly enacted in special session last month, if large thrifts, or those with assets of more than $40 million, do not obtain federal insurance, they may be merged or liquidated by the state, a move that could force taxpayers to cover any losses.
"There was nothing from the state that said we're a bad shop," Seidel said, referring to his meeting with Frederick L. Dewberry, the state official who oversees a savings and loan industry that was shaken last month by a spate of customer runs.
"They feel that our net worth should be higher," Seidel added. "It will be a tough road for us to get FSLIC . . . but we will do what it takes to get there."
Seidel said that under Maryland's now-defunct system of private savings and loan insurance, First Maryland's net worth probably would be calculated at roughly $12 million, putting it near the 5 percent threshold required by FSLIC.
But because First Maryland has more than $6 million tied up in the old private insurance fund controlled by the state, and because FSLIC will not count that and other funds as assets, First Maryland has a net worth cushion of roughly $1 million, Seidel said.
One state official familiar with First Maryland's financial condition said regulators have suggested to Seidel that the thrift might be in better shape if it issued more loans for single-family residential housing, rather than commercial ventures that are widely regarded as more risky.
First Maryland's penchant for commercial loans accounted in part for its rapid growth, helping it to double its assets to more than $200 million between 1982 and 1983. But it also drew fire from the Maryland Savings-Share Insurance Corp., whose staff directed First Maryland last August to reduce its commercial lending, saying it violated guidelines designed to prevent thrifts from concentrating excessive amounts of deposits in high-risk ventures.
MSSIC, the now-defunct private insurer of Maryland S&Ls, limited commercial loans to 40 percent of an association's deposits. But in the first half of 1984, First Maryland made commercial loans ranging from 63.99 percent to 74.06 percent, according to the insurer's records. First Maryland also violated the insurer's rule limiting construction loans to 25 percent of all commercial loans, according to records.
In the interview yesterday, Seidel insisted that First Maryland's commercial lending was not at the root of the thrift's current troubles.
"We are very active in real estate, that's true," Seidel said, gesturing towards a 32-town house development two blocks away that First Maryland financed and that he said has recently been sold.
"Our main problem is that we must now operate under new rules, FSLIC rules," Seidel added. "And that will take time."