WASHINGTON - Some Federal Home Loan Bank member institutions could see their dividends skyrocket while others could see them plummet if Congress follows the advice of the General Accounting Office.
Home Loan banks that lend large sums to member thrifts now pay a larger portion of the system's charges for the thrift cleanup. The GAO said the burden of repaying the bonds issued by the Resolution Funding Corp., or Refcorp, should be redistributed.
"These changes, in the long term, can ensure the continued stability and efficiency of the Home Loan Bank System and its ability to continue providing liquidity to home mortgage lenders," said GAO senior economist Edward J. DeMarco.
$300 Million Annual Payment
The system pays $300 million annually toward Refcorp obligations, and is slated to do so for the next 38 years.
Currently, each of the 12 district banks contributes 20% of its income toward the $300 million payment. If there is a shortfall, each contributes more, based on a formula that weighs the amount of advances it made to member institutions insured by the Savings Association Insurance Fund.
The San Francisco bank paid 37% of the $129 million shortfall last year, while the Boston district bank paid just 1.7%, the GAO said. Those charges greatly affected the dividends that were paid to district bank stockholders - individual thrifts and commercial banks.
The GAO recommends changing that system, and gave Congress three options to consider.
One choice would be to keep the 20% contribution from each district bank, but pay for any shortfall by charging each district bank a percentage of its assets, income, or net worth.
Another option is changing the $300 million payment to a flat 20% charge each year. The GAO reasons that in some years, less that $300 million would be collected, but that in others, more than $300 million would, eventually paying the entire Refcorp bill.
The third option is to charge each district bank 20% of its earnings. But any shortfall would be collected outside the system, perhaps from SAIF-insured members, an option proposed last year under legislation sponsored by Reps. Richard H. Baker, R-La., and Stephen L. Neal, D-N.C.
Dean M. Schultz, president of the San Francisco bank, said the first option "would help increase our dividends, and in some other districts it would lower dividends." The other two proposals would increase dividends systemwide, he said.
James D. Roy, President of the Pittsburgh Home Loan Bank, said, "Of the three options, I would clearly favor the straight 20%" tax.
Praise from Regulator
The Home Loan Bank System's regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Board, generally praised the GAO's recommendations.
Michael L. Wilson, the board's policy and research director, said, "Anything which gets the system away from having to meet this fixed obligation of its income would be good."
But he cautioned that any changes besides setting a fixed percentage for all district banks to contribute could cause problems.
"Right now, San Francisco seems to be paying an unfair share, and if you change it, some other district will," Mr. Wilson said.
Separately, another director of the finance board has resigned rather than stay on as a full-time board member.
William C. Perkins on Monday notified the White House that his resignation is effective Jan. 1 and that he does not want to be considered for reappointment. His term ran out last February, but he had continued to serve since then and was apparently being considered for reappointment as chairman of the finance board.