Something unusual popped up in a debt settlement at First State Bank of North Dakota not long ago.

The bank in Arthur, N.D., took title to 40,000 pounds of gourmet popcorn after a farm customer's contract with a vendor fell through. The farmer could neither sell the crunchy stuff nor repay the debt.

Popped, that's about 256,000 large tubs of movie popcorn, according to the Popcorn Institute, the association of popcorn producers.

Because the popcorn was involved in a Farmers Home Administration- guaranteed loan, the bank had to liquidate all of the collateral to collect the guarantee, said Mike Killoran, senior vice president.

But the bank couldn't butter up vendors enough to make the one-time purchase.

Finally, the $30 million-asset bank decided to donate the warehoused popcorn (minus a 50-pound bag it kept for itself) to the local high school's business club. With a $7,000 grant from the state and a $3,500 operating line of credit from the bank to pay for packaging and other costs, the students so far have sold more than half.

"We pop it three to five times a week in the bank," Mr. Killoran said. "Often on statement day, we'll pop up a batch and put it out in the lobby. It's very tasty."

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It looks like an analyst's report, reads like an analyst's report and feels like an analyst's report. But it isn't

It's Houston's Charter Bancshares' quarterly report, perhaps the most investor-friendly quarterly report we've ever seen, complete with the mumbo-jumbo of per-share data on the top and a narrative of the quarter's performance underneath.

About everything a prospective Charter shareholder would want to know about the company is there. But, upon closer inspection, there's a disclaimer on the bottom and a decided lack of opinions. That's because it's published each quarter by the management of Charter.

"No one's ever mistaken it for an analyst report," said William T. Shropshire, chief financial officer. "The only comments we get are favorable ones, especially from analysts and other people who put our financials to use."

Mr. Shropshire said the pamphlet, published on regular paper (a considerable savings from the usual glossy quarterly booklet) is sent out to all shareholders and others on the mailing list, including the press.

On the bottom of the first page is written, "This report ... is not intended to be construed as investment advice."

Compiled by Barbara Bronstien and Terrence O'Hara

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