Who's Next? List of Troubled Banks Worries Wall Street, DC

ABC News Has Obtained Privately-Prepared Lists of Most Troubled Banks


July 15, 2008—

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.

Late today, Colorado Federal's president and CEO, Randy Ilich, reported that a new owner bought the bank two weeks ago, adding more than $10 million in capital.

"The previous owners were in serious trouble, but we are now in a very good place," Ilich told ABC News.

Ilich said Colorado Federal had suffered from "fraudulent transactions" and speculative home buyers who could not make their payments.

"We now have more than enough reserves in place to go forward," said Ilich.

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.

Jan Schultz, chairman of the First National Bank of Brookville in Illinois, also said the numbers don't tell the whole story. While his bank has many nonperforming loans, they are secured by real estate whose value remains high, even with the slumping market, he said.

"We don't anticipate significant loan losses at all," Schultz told ABC News.

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.

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