WASHINGTON - By closing HomeFed Bank, thrift regulator T. Timothy Ryan Jr. sent a clear signal to Congress, industry analysts said Tuesday.

His message: The Office of Thrift Supervision will seize giant savings and loans despite Congress' refusal to provide more bailout funds.

"What Ryan is doing is telling everybody that problem thrifts need to be closed and resolved," said Dennis Jacobe, managing director at the Washington-based Financial Research Institute. "He sent a very strong message."

"He's not playing games," added William Ferguson, president of Ferguson & Co., an Irving, Tex.-based bank and thrift consulting firm. "He's deadly serious."

HomeFed, with $12.4 billion in assets, is the largest S&L ever sent to the Resolution Trust Corp.

With its seizure, Mr. Ryan fullfilled earlier promises. In May, after it became clear that Congress wouldn't come up with more funding, the OTS director announced plans to shut down 45 undercapitalized S&Ls with $37.2 billion in assets.

But some doubted Mr. Ryan would go after a major thrift - especially with a presidential election looming.

|High Level of Frustration'

For his part, Mr. Ryan denied any intention of sending a message. "The action was taken because the institution has been in a negative position for some time," he said in an interview Tuesday.

But he acknowledge a "high level of frustration" exists among regulators because Congress hasn't approved the estimated $42 billion needed to complete the thrift industry cleanup.

"We have a program that works," he said. "Because of Congress diddling, we do not have funds."

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