An award of $5 million in a supervisory goodwill case last week appeared to be a setback for scores of thrifts waging similar legal battles, but the opinion behind it contained some encouraging words for the industry.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled Friday that Lasalle Talman of Chicago, a predecessor of ABN Amro North America Inc., failed to prove that it suffered the $1.5 billion of damages it sought in connection with four acquisitions it made in a government program. It was the third -- and slimmest -- grant of damages in a goodwill case spawned by the 1989 savings and loan bailout.

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