WASHINGTON — When the government removed Scott Polakoff as the acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision last week, it said he was being investigated for "August 2008 actions related to post-period capital contributions."
The explanation was not exactly transparent, but sources said Friday that Polakoff is being accused of allowing BankUnited of Coral Gables, Fla., to overstate its capital. Specifically the charge is that the regulator let the $14 billion-asset thrift tell the public that it had raised capital before it had actually done so.
Attempts to reach Polakoff by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful Friday. BankUnited did not return a call for comment.
According to an Aug. 11 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, BankUnited received an $80 million capital infusion from its holding company, BankUnited Financial Corp., on June 30. The investigation is looking into whether the investment was actually made later.
Polakoff's ousting followed the December ouster of Darrel Dochow, director of the agency's West region, over allegations by the Treasury Department's inspector general that he allowed IndyMac Bank to overstate its capital. Regulators seized IndyMac in July.
The inspector general alleged that Dochow allowed IndyMac to count a May 9 infusion of capital from its holding company toward its first-quarter capital ratio. The backdating allowed the $30 billion-asset thrift to stay above a 10% capital ratio threshold and avoid complying with a brokered deposit restriction that is automatically triggered when an institution is no longer considered "well" capitalized.
In January, then-OTS Director John Reich acknowledged in a letter to the Treasury that an internal review found four cases of unacceptable reporting of capital infusions, including IndyMac's. The letter did not identify the other institutions, except to say they were in the OTS' Northeast, Southeast, and West regions.
BankUnited is in the agency's Southeast region. It has been hit hard by the deteriorating Florida real estate market, and in a March 20 SEC filing, it said it could be put into receivership. The thrift also reported that it is "significantly under" the capital level required by a Dec. 31 consent order with the OTS.
"There is substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern," the filing said.
On Jan. 23 the OTS issued guidance to its examiners to clarify the appropriate reporting of capital infusions.
Polakoff, a senior deputy director and chief operating officer, had been the acting director for only a month. He assumed that role after Reich resigned Feb. 27. The OTS appointed John Bowman, its deputy director and chief counsel, to succeed Polakoff as acting director.
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Corrected March 30, 2009 at 5:19PM: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect Office of Thrift Supervision region for BankUnited. The thrift is in the regulator's Southeast region.<@SM>