WASHINGTON -- After a two-month slowdown, savings and loan regulators will resume seizing troubled institutions in force this week, government sources said.
As many as 45 undercapitalized S&Ls with a total of $37.2 billion in assets have been targeted by the Office of Thrift Supervision, the sources said. The agency will begin seizing as many as four or five a week, starting Friday.
The S&Ls will be put into conservatorship and run indefinitely by the Resolution Trust Corp. The thrifts cannot be sold or liquidated, because Congress hasn't provided the estimated $42 billion needed to pay off depositors or to attract buyers for the assets.
With the decision, OTS Director T. Timothy Ryan is making good on a promise to renew seizures after Memorial Day whether or not Congress came through with additional funding. Mr. Ryan, who declined to be interviewed for this article, had said he would not allow managers to continue to operate failing institutions.
The S&L cleanup effort came to a virtual standstill April 1 when the RTC ran low on funds.
Only nine institutions, with a total of $4 billion in assets, have been placed into conservatorship or sold since then.
The OTS hit list includes some of the 33 institutions with $26.7 billion in assets that are part of its "accelerated resolution program."
The program is an attempt to avert costly runs by selling sick S&Ls before they become insolvent. The OTS and the RTC have resolved about 40 S&Ls this way over the past 18 months.
San Diego-based HomeFed Bank, with $13.6 billion in assets, is thought to be the largest S&L in the program. Sources said OTS had been hoping to find a buyer next month.
Thomas Wageman, the institution's CEO, said he believes Congress will approve funding before then.
"I don't think he [Ryan] has any choice but to seize the institutions," said Bert Ely, president of Ely & Co., an Alexandria, Va.-based bank and S&L consulting firm, who estimates that the funding delay is costing taxpayers $10 million each day. "Every resolution is being pushed back because of this delay."
Mr. Ryan has said in the past that OTS could finish the thrift cleanup by fall and that delays increase the cost daily.
Pleading the RTC Case
Since April 1, Mr. Ryan alone has met with more than 60 members of Congress to coax them into loosening the purse strings. Albert V. Casey, president of the RTC, has also been pleading the agency's case on Capitol Hill.
An industry S&L expert, who did not want his name used, said if Mr. Ryan's motives are politically driven, he is making a mistake by seizing failing S&Ls.
"It's a terrible idea," he said. "It is in part being motivated to move the RTC bill. I think they are getting frustrated."
J. Denis O'Toole, a lobbyist with the newly formed Savings and Community Bankers Association, a Washington-based trade group, said it is unlikely the RTC will get funds anytime soon.
"There is just a high degree of indifference on the part of the members," he said. "They are almost afraid to get involved with the issue. Ultimately, the president is going to have to use his ... office to get it done."