WASHINGTON -- Whew! The nation's biggest thrift trade group has had a close call.

A high-profile manager - the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas - nearly pulled out of the trade group Savings and Community Bankers of America.

That would have marked the second high-profile defection on recent months. In January, the nation's largest thrift, $50 billion-asset Home Savings of America, left SCBA, saying it wanted to save the money it spent in dues.

Thursday morning, SCBA confirmed that the Dallas bank had quit over a policy disagreement. "Nobody likes to lose membeers, or the dues they pay," a SCBA spokesman said. The Dallas Home Loan Bank, an associate member, paid $2,500 annually in dues.

Plans to Rejoin

But when George M. Barclay, president of the Dallas Home Loan Bank, was reached early Thursday afternoon for comment, he said that he would rejoin after all.

Mr. Barclay said he was angered earlier this year to learn that SCBA had opposed a provision of the pending community development bank bill that would allow the Home Loan Bank System to lend 40% of its advances to commercial banks and other nonthrift members, up from the current 30%.

The same day he learned of the amendment of the banking bill, Mr. Barclay said he received the trade group's notice that it was time to pay his annual membership dues.

"I put is aside because I was, quite frankly, irritated at their position at that time," Mr. Barclay said. He meant to pay up later, but forgot about the notice, the Dallas bank president said.

Diplomatic Response

But SCBA president Paul A. Schosberg suggested Mr. Barclay's account was overly diplomatic. "He didn't forget, he threw it in the wastebasket in a fit of pique. Then he forgot," Mr. Schosberg said.

Mr. Schosberg, reached Thursday afternoon, said Mr. Barclay called him "about 45 minutes ago" to say the Dallas bank would rejoin SCBA.

SCBA's position on reform of the Home Loan Bank system is not far away from Mr. Barclay's in the big picture, Mr. Schosberg said. But SCBA opposes the community development bank bill provision because the trade group wants comprehensive reform of the bank system, he said.

Reconciliation Process

The bill has passed both the Senate and the House, but only the House version contains the provision in question. Before the bill becomes law, differences betwene the two provisions must be worked out in conference committee proceedings.

"I don't think that a trade organization can be all things to all people," Mr. Barclay said. Because his direct Home Loan bank now has more bank than S&L members, and SCBA just represents thrifts, "we are marching to different drummers," he said.

The trade group for community banks said the Dallas bank's move would have been understandable.

"The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas sees its future in its rapidly growing commercial bank membership," said Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. The IBAA also supports the provision in the community development banking bill, he said.

Several of the 12 district Home Loan bankers are associate members of the IBAA. The banks in Dallas, San Francisco, and New York belong to IBAA, the trade group said.

The SCBA spokesman said that nine of the 12 district Home Loan banks belong to the trade group, having joined when it was formed in 1992.

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