WASHINGTON — The Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta is planning to build its capital position by requiring more capital from some of its members and making it harder to redeem certain stock.
The bank said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday that it is raising the cap on stock members are required to hold, to $26 million, from $25 million. The ultimate impact of the move is unclear, since it will mostly affect members whose assets have grown over the past year, which should be a small club considering that most banks have focused on trimming their balance sheets.
Still, it points to a shift in the way Home Loan banks are managing their capital during an onslaught of other-than-temporary impairment charges that are eating into the cushions at many banks.
Beyond the higher capital requirement, the Atlanta bank is also raising the maximum for voluntary excess stock repurchases to $2.5 billion, from $100,000, and said it would repurchase excess stock quarterly instead of daily.
"Management and the board of directors are taking prudent steps to manage capital until markets improve and greater clarity is available on the fair-value treatment of the bank's mortgage-backed securities portfolio," Richard Dorfman, the Atlanta bank's chief executive, wrote in a letter to members Friday.
The reasoning behind the increasingly conservative capital management is becoming clearer: Two banks said last week that they would report losses for 2008, and six others said earnings were off for the year.
The Chicago and Boston banks reported net losses for 2008. The Chicago bank, which had a $119 million loss, cited a $292 million other-than-temporary impairment charge on holdings of private-label mortgage-backed securities and lower net interest income it attributed to higher funding costs.
The Chicago bank last year considered a merger with its Dallas counterpart, but on Thursday it reiterated its commitment to remain a stand-alone. There were encouraging signs in a letter to members from the bank's CEO, Matt Feldman, including 26% growth in advances during the year.
The Boston bank blamed its $73.2 million loss on a $339.1 million OTTI charge from its private-label MBS.
OTTI charges hurt several of the banks. The Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco banks recorded OTTI charges totaling $1.5 billion for the year. The charges have frustrated the Home Loan banks in recent months; they argue that accounting rules dramatically overstate the potential losses in their private-label portfolios.
Though the Atlanta bank has reworked its capital rules, it and the Seattle bank have not released their earnings, which are not officially due until March 31.
The income decline was particularly steep at the Pittsburgh, Topeka, Dallas, and San Francisco banks.
Earnings fell 91.8% at the Pittsburgh bank, mostly because of a $236.8 million OTTI charge. The bank said it believed the actual losses in its private-label portfolio would be much less — $94.4 million. Net interest income fell 24.8% for the year at the Pittsburgh bank.
Earnings at the Topeka bank fell 81.1%, to $28.4 million, but the bank did not go into much detail explaining the decline. It said accounting rules contributed to a fourth-quarter net loss, but it did not specify the severity of the loss.
Net income fell nearly 39% at the Dallas Home Loan bank for the year. It posted a $67.6 million net loss for the fourth quarter, largely because of a $64.4 million loss in derivatives and hedging activities.
The San Francisco bank's earnings fell 29.3%, to $461 million. The bank recorded a $590 million OTTI charge on its private-label holdings. It estimated its actual losses on these holdings at $27 million.
The San Francisco bank recorded a $103 million fourth-quarter loss.
The Des Moines and Indianapolis Home Loan banks were the exception to the rule for the year; the Des Moines bank said earnings rose 25.6%, to $127.4 million, and the Indianapolis bank's earnings grew 62%, to $184.5 million.