ABC News: More banks troubled

July 15, 2008 7:03:33 AM PDT
Banks in Colorado, Maryland, Georgia and California top privately-prepared lists of troubled banks being circulated on Wall Street and in Washington. While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is keeping secret its official list of 90 troubled banks, ABC News has obtained other lists prepared by several research groups and financial analysts.

The lists use versions of the so-called "Texas ratio" which compare a bank's assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based on financial data made public by the FDIC in March.

Analysts say banks with a ratio over 100 per cent would be the most likely to fail, based on what happened to Texas savings and loans during the 1980's.

"That a fair measure," said Hal Scott, a Harvard law school professor specializing in banking law. "It doesn't mean every one of those banks is going to become insolvent, but if you have more bad loans than assets, it's not a bad way to judge what could happen," Scott told ABC News.

One list prepared by Research Associates of America, a non-profit group in Washington, D.C. funded by labor unions, reported 10 banks with a ratio over 100. (click here to see the list)

"This is information that the FDIC essentially hides in plain sight," said Jeff Fiedler, president of Research Associates of America.

At the top of the list was ANB Financial National Association of Bentonville, AR, with a 344 ratio. The bank failed earlier this year and was later taken over by a Louisiana bank.

The Colorado Federal Savings Bank of Greenwood Village, CO, was listed as having a bad loan to asset ratio of 244.82.

Repeated calls to the bank from ABC News were not returned.

The Eastern Savings Bank of Hunt Valley, MD was listed as having a Texas ratio of 222.74, meaning it had twice as many bad loans as assets and surplus.

Repeated calls seeking comment from Eastern were not returned.

The Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, GA was listed with a 191 ratio.

Calls from ABC News to Integrity Bank were not returned, but the Atlanta Constitution quoted the bank's president and chief executive, Patrick Frawley, as saying the Texas ratio is "a little misleading."

Frawley said the Texas ratio doesn't count all of the bank's reserves for losses and fails to reflect that the loans are secured with real estate collateral.

With a ratio just under 100, at 96, the $13-billion Downey Savings and Loan of Newport Beach, California is the biggest financial institution with a high ratio of bad loans.

Tom Prince, Downey's chief operating officer, said many of the bank's non-performing loans in March have since become current and that the Texas ratio "is only a statistic."

"I don't think there is any one number you can point to and say that will predict what will happen going forward," Prince said. "We feel good about our situation," he said.

The banks on the list are FDIC-insured, meaning that depositors with less than $100,000 would be covered should their banks go under.

Click Here for ABC News Investigative Homepage.

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On the Net:

FDIC IndyMac page: http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/IndyMac.html

Toll-Free Customer line: 1-866-806-5919

FDIC Main page: www.fdic.gov

FDIC Quick Links for Consumers: www.fdic.gov/quicklinks/consumers.html


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