There´s no place like home - especially if your name is IndyMac. The California thrift, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is close to selling, looks like it could stay under the watchful eye of its old regulator: the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Nothing´s for certain, but reports are out that a consortium of private equity groups and hedge funds led by Dune Capital Management will buy IndyMac Federal Bank, the shell of the Pasadena lender that the FDIC has run since its July 11 failure. A spokeswoman for the OTS said Dune has asked for thrift holding company status, which would allow the investors to manage IndyMac´s operations, and may have been "informally pre-approved."
Score one for the OTS. The charter application is still pending, and IndyMac has shrunk almost 20% to $26 billion in assets as of Sept. 30. But for an agency that has lost its biggest institutions to the mortgage crisis, and that many believe will soon die itself, keeping IndyMac in the fold could help the regulator return to relevance - for a time at least.
Few events over the past year have offered support to OTS´ mission. No. 1 thrift Washington Mutual failed and its acquirer, JPMorgan Chase & Co., said it would place Wamu´s assets in a bank charter. Bank of America Corp. said it would keep Countrywide Financial as a thrift, but the takeover - necessary to keep the lender afloat - was seen as another OTS failing.
If the IndyMac deal succeeds, the thrift would not be attached to a bigger bank, and the OTS would be its sole overseer. So, the coming year might not be as dismal for the OTS as it seemed two weeks ago. The agency could have a second shot at good fortune with good ol´ Indy in the house again.