Efforts to resolve Utah's two-year-old nagging thrift crisis took a major step forward Friday as attorneys for depositors accepted a $100 million settlement from the state.
Gov. Norm Bangerter announced the agreement at an evening press conference at the Governor's Mansion, following an eight-hour negotiating session between state officials, attorneys for the state's insurance carriers and attorneys for depositors."We feel this is a fair agreement. It's been a difficult one to achieve," Bangerter said. "We have worked together in good faith. We've had our challenges and disagreements, but we've never stopped talking.
"This is a compromise to which everyone seems to agree."
Asked if the settlement was an admission of liability by the state in its handling of Utah's troubled thrift industry, Bangerter said, "In our view there was some exposure, and in a lawsuit like this you aren't sure how it's going to turn out or how much it will cost to fight it. We saw it as a major public policy issue."
The agreement settles claims between the state and thrift depositors, whose multimillion-dollar lawsuit accused the state of negligence in regulating the thrift industry, which collapsed in 1986, freezing millions of dollars in savings of about 15,000 depositors.
The complaints also accuse former thrift industry officials and advisers of fraud and racketeering. Legal counsel for the state, depositors and the state's insurance carriers have agreed to jointly pursue depositors' claims against the third-party defendants.
"I would like to thank God that this long moment in the lives of the depositors is now close to a close," said Malcolm Misuraca, lead counsel for Depositors of Insured Thrifts, the depositor organization leading the effort to recover losses suffered in Utah's thrift crisis.
He expressed the "praise and gratitude we feel on behalf of the depositors to Gov. Bangerter, without whose steadfastness . . . this settlement would never have been reached."
Despite that optimisim, the agreement doesn't immediately return 100 percent of depositors' savings and still faces several hurdles before it becomes effective.
DOIT's steering committee and the plaintiffs in the class-action suit approved the settlement late Friday night. The settlement still needs the eventual approval of all thrift depositors and the state Legislature to become effective.
Bangerter said he anticipates calling an Aug. 31 special session to deal with the estimated $30 million bond and $9 million appropriation needed to finance the settlement.
The settlement must also be approved by the state court where the class-action suit has been filed and which is overseeing liquidation of the failed thrifts.
Five thrift and loans were taken over by the state in 1986 after regulators declared the thrifts' deposit insurance fund, the Industrial Loan Guaranty Corp., was insolvent.
About $106 million in thrift deposit accounts were frozen as a result of the action, and the thrifts are now being liquidated. Depositors filed their lawsuit to recover anticipated losses.
The $100 million settlement is $6 million short of depositors' principal and does not include interest or legal fees.
But DOIT attorneys and Bangerter are confident the shortfall to depositors and some reimbursement to the state will be made up through pursuing claims against the third-party defendants.
"We hope those potential litigants will come forward as we have now," Bangerter said.
DOIT attorneys said their fees, which could range between $10 million and $20 million, would come from claims against the third-party defendants.
The third-party defendants - former thrift owners, trustees of the ILGC, local accounting firms and attorneys - rejected Bangerter's previous requests to take part in the settlement.
To finance the settlement the state will issue a $33 million general obligation bond, put in $9 million from its Risk Management Fund and the state's liability carriers will contribute $19 million.
The remaining $39 million, recovered through thrift liquidation, has already been distributed to depositors.
The bond would be financed through proceeds from the ongoing liquidation of the thrifts' assets, remaining assets in the ILGC and $2 million left from a $5 million 1986 appropriation to deal with the thrifts.
Bangerter said the state will essentially be putting up $14 million in cash with the prosect of getting $4 million of that back through claims against the third-party defendants.
"I am sure we squeezed every penny we could from the state. We said no quite a few times," said DOIT co-counsel George Haley.
The difference between this settlement and the $96 million state offer DOIT rejected last Tuesday is an additional $4 million put up by state liability carriers and the agreement to share expenses in pursuing the additional claims.
Under the agreement, the first $6 million received from third-party defendants will go to depositors, giving them 100 percent of their principal.
Further judgments would be shared: 40 percent to depositors, 30 percent to the state and 30 percent to the state's insurance carriers, until the state receives $4 million.
After the state receives $4 million, proceeds from winning claims against other defendants would be split 50-50 between depositors and the state's insurance carriers.