WASHINGTON — In a rare move, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will allow a firm with commercial holdings to continue to run an industrial loan company.
The decision, made public Wednesday, allows the private-equity group Cerberus Capital Management LP to maintain lead ownership of GMAC LLC's Utah ILC for 10 years.
The agency's order is subject to conditions, including capital requirements for the ILC and GMAC, GMAC said in a press release. The application was held up because of concerns from some FDIC board members about whether it should allow any commercial ownership of industrial banks, sources said. The agency has hardly granted any commercial ILC approvals for three years in the wake of contentious applications by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. (Both retail companies eventually withdrew their bids.)
If the agency had not acted by November, Cerberus and its co-investors would likely have had to sell the ILC, GMAC Bank, after Cerberus had purchased a majority stake in GMAC from General Motors Inc. in 2006.
"We feel that the FDIC acted on this with the appropriate level of expediency," GMAC spokeswoman Toni Simonetti said in an interview Wednesday. "It's a timely decision for us."
The agency has approved few ILC applications this year, even after lifting its moratorium in February. Since then it has approved only one other charter request for an ILC, the bid by the Maryland lender CapitalSource Inc. to fold the deposits and some assets of the troubled Fremont General Corp. into a new California ILC.
Observers say the banking downturn may have signaled to regulators that allowing more players with capital into the market is preferable to stalling future bids.
"Clearly," ILCs are "not the front-burner issue in the banking industry anymore. With a banking industry that's counting every penny of its capital, there may even be a school of thought that taking capital where it can be gotten is not a bad idea," said V. Gerard Comizio, a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.
"The bottom line is times have simply changed in the banking industry," Mr. Comizio said. "The FDIC has a little more flexibility and running room in this area."
The GMAC extension did not come easily. When Cerberus — along with Citigroup Inc., Aozora Bank Ltd., and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. — originally tried to purchase the stake in 2006, the sale was held up because the FDIC moratorium blocked the transfer of the ILC's control to the investment group. During that time FDIC officials hoped Congress would pass legislation clarifying ILC charter limits, but lawmakers have failed to agree on a bill.
In November 2006 the FDIC — recognizing broader implications in blocking GM's restructuring — granted Cerberus a waiver from the moratorium, but only for two years. Under the agreement, the owners would either have to divest the ILC's holdings or receive an extension of the FDIC agreement by November 2008.
The FDIC board, which many observers had speculated was split on the Wal-Mart and Home Depot applications, had been thought to be similarly deadlocked on granting Cerberus its approval.
Ms. Simonetti said the new agreement is subject to any legislative reform on ILC ownership, but said she believes any bill would allow the owners to own the ILC outright.