At last, the Utah thrift crisis seems to be over. It hasn't been easy, as four special sessions of the Legislature were necessary to produce a settlement with the 15,000 depositors of the five failed thrifts.
An all-day session this week finally resulted in an arrangement that would give most depositors their money back by a hoped-for Christmas deadline.But the voting was not unanimous - 18-11 in the Senate and 48-25 in the House. Many legislators remained uneasy over using state money to rescue depositors and to pay attorney fees.
But the deal appears to accomplish what it was designed to do, namely, give depositors their money and reduce state liability in the messy situation that still has lawsuits to resolve against third parties.
Essentially, the package involves the state "buying" $15 million of the estimated $32 million in unliquidated thrift assets, and sharing the money with depositors as assets are liquidated. The state's insurance carrier contributes $19 million to depositors, along with another $10 million of state money. The state, the insurance company, and depositors will share in any funds recovered as a result of lawsuits.
Just how much the state will get back from its outlay is unclear. Depositors should receive about 90 cents on the dollar, but attorney fees must still be paid, either as decided by the courts as part of lawsuits against third parties, or by the depositors themselves.
Despite the action by lawmakers, the settlement is not yet complete. Depositors must still agree. If more than 10 percent reject the offer, it will be withdrawn. Lawyers for the depositors say the settlement is a "good deal" and will campaign hard for its approval.
While the situation is not perfect, it appears to meet the major needs of both sides. If depositors reject it, the whole issue will be thrown into confusion again and the chance of them recovering their money in the near future would be placed in doubt.
Depositors should do the same thing legislators did - swallow any lingering doubts and vote to wrap up this long and unhappy situation as soon as possible.