Georgian’s clean-up will be unusually costly. The book value of Georgian’s assets was $2 billion as of July 24, about the same as the bank’s deposit liabilities, according to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. press release. The FDIC estimates the collapse will cost its insurance fund $892 million, or 45 percent of the bank’s assets. That percentage was almost double the average for this year’s 95 U.S. bank failures, and it was the highest among the 10 largest ones.
How many other seemingly healthy multibillion-dollar community banks are out there waiting to implode? That’s impossible to know, which is what’s so unsettling about Georgian’s sudden downfall. Just when the conventional wisdom suggests the banking crisis might be under control, along comes a reality check that tells us we’re still flying blind. You can't say I didn't warn you at least two years in advance:
- Reggie Middleton says don't believe Paulson: S&L crisis 2.0, bank failure redux
- More on the banking backdrop, we've never had so many loans!
- As I see it, these 32 banks and thrifts are in deep doo-doo!
- A little more on HELOCs, 2nd lien loans and rose colored glasses
- Capital, Leverage and Loss in the Banking System
- Doo-Doo bank drill down, part 1 - Wells Fargo
- Doo-Doo Bank 32 drill down: Part 3 - SunTrust Bank
- The Anatomy of a Sick Bank!
- Doo Doo Bank 32 Drill Down 1.5: Wells Fargo Bank
The cost of Georgian’s failure confirms that the bank’s asset values were too optimistic. I have been alleging this for some time now, see "Is JP Morgan Taking Realistic Marks on its WaMu Portfolio Purchase? Doubtful!". It also helps explain why the FDIC, led by Chairman Sheila Bair, is resorting to extraordinary measures to replenish its battered insurance fund.
As recently as its March 31 report to regulators, Georgian said it met the FDIC’s requirements to be deemed “well capitalized.” By June 30, that had dropped to “adequately capitalized,” after a $45 million second-quarter net loss.
Georgian also reported a 12-fold jump in nonperforming loans to $306.4 million from $24.7 million three months earlier, mostly construction loans. Again, you can't say I didn't warn you well in advance:
- Who are ya gonna believe, the pundits or your lying eyes?"
- Who are you going to believe, the pundits or your lying eyes, part 2
- GGP and the type of investigative analysis you will not get from your brokerage house
Georgian’s numbers made it seem as if the surge arose from nowhere. On its March 31 report, the bank said just $79.1 million of its loans were 30 days or more past due. That included the loans it had classified as nonperforming.
Georgian’s new CEO, John Poelker, downplayed any concerns. “Whether there is enough capital for the bank to be a survivor isn’t an issue,” he told Bloomberg News for an Aug. 5 article.
What wasn’t made public until Sept. 25, the day it closed, was that Georgian Bank had agreed to a cease-and-desist order with the FDIC on Aug. 31 after flunking an agency examination. The 19-page order described various “unsafe or unsound banking practices and violations of law and/or regulations,” including failing to record loan losses in a timely manner. Again, something that I have sounded the horn on, see "They ARE trying to kick the bad mortgages down the road, here's proof!". Georgian neither admitted nor denied the allegations.
The FDIC updates the public about the number of banks on its problem list once a quarter. An FDIC spokesman, David Barr, said Georgian was added to the FDIC’s internal list in July. He said the agency adds banks to the list based on exam ratings, not the data in their financial reports.
As for the 416 banks on the list as of June 30, up from 305 a quarter earlier, the FDIC said their combined assets were $299.8 billion. (The FDIC didn’t name the banks, per its usual practice.) If Georgian’s experience is any guide, the real-world value of those assets probably is much less.
That might help explain why the FDIC keeps increasing its estimates for the losses it’s anticipating from future bank failures. In May, the agency said it was expecting $70 billion of losses through 2013. This week, it bumped that to $100 billion. The agency also said its insurance fund would finish the third quarter with a deficit, meaning liabilities exceed assets.
The FDIC, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, will get whatever money it needs to protect depositors. For now, it plans to raise $45 billion by collecting advance payments from the banking industry. Those payments will cover the next three years of premiums that the banks owe.
In effect, the FDIC is taking out a massive, no-interest loan to cover its bills. Borrowing from the future won’t improve its insurance fund’s capital, however, only its liquidity.
The big question is what the FDIC will do next time, should its loss estimates keep rising -- and there’s no reason to believe they won’t. By statute, the insurance fund is supposed to be funded solely by the banking industry. The FDIC could keep borrowing from the banks, directly or through more advances. No it can't. The industry doesn't have the money.
The agency could tap its $500 billion credit line with the U.S. Treasury. It still would have to pay back the money with fees from the industry, assuming the banks can’t persuade their minions in Congress to change the law. As it stands, the only way to boost the fund’s capital immediately is by charging the banks a lot more money for their insurance premiums.
Given the odds that other surprises like Georgian Bank are lurking, the FDIC will have to bite this bullet eventually.