Settlement of regulatory goodwill litigation appears less likely now than ever before in the 10-year-old legal drama. Two judges of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims have reached opposite conclusions on whether the government must pay onetime acquirers of failing thrifts billions of dollars for eliminating a favorable accounting treatment granted in the 1980s.

Judge Robert H. Hodges Jr. ruled April 16 that California Federal Bank is entitled to $23 million in its breach of contract dispute. The decision shocked many sources because it was such a small portion of the $1.5 billion the San Francisco thrift had demanded and came just a week after Chief Judge Loren A. Smith had ordered the government to pay $909 million in a similar case involving the former Glendale Federal Bank.

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