The chief judge of U.S. claims court strongly rebuked the federal government Monday for its handling of thrift regulatory goodwill cases, but he put off a final decision in all but four cases.

Judge Loren A. Smith said he intended to make a ruling that the government broke contracts with 120 thrifts to let them carry regulatory goodwill as capital. But he gave the Justice Department a last chance to convince him why he should not side with the aggrieved institutions.

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