Now that the state has agreed to settle with the 15,000 depositors of the failed thrifts and loans, it's time to sell the agreement to those depositors.
Depositor attorneys, who dealt long and hard with lawmakers during four special sessions that ended with a settlement Tuesday night, say they'll travel the state telling depositors to take the state's offer."If we don't get at least 95 percent (to accept the offer), we won't have gotten our message across," said Malcolm Misuraca, the lead attorney in the complicated case. "This is the best deal they could get, a very good deal."
Depositors will meet Wednesday in the Holladay branch library at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the settlement accord.
Misuraca said the committee of depositors who advise him were somewhat reluctant to accept the offer after such a long and hard fight with the state.
"There were some tears. But this is a good settlement and we're going to sell it."
"I'm not really sure of the whole picture, but it doesn't sound like a good deal to me," said a depositor who requested to remain anonymous. "After paying the costs of this thing, we will probably get about 70 cents on the dollar."
Misuraca hopes depositors who accept the state's offer can get their money back before Christmas. "Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
Tuesday evening House members voted to approve the settlement plan. Monday, just before midnight, senators approved the plan, then reaffirmed their support Tuesday after House members made some technical amendments. It was the fourth time lawmakers met in special session over the past month to discuss the thrift issue.
All were pleased it was over, including Gov. Norm Bangerter. Bangerter, a Republican who has gotten just about everything he asked for from the GOP-dominated Legislature in the past, was critical of GOP legislators when they weren't satisfied with the deal he'd worked out.
Under Bangerter's plan, the state would have given depositors $9 million and risked $31 million more on unliquidated assets. Under the Legislature's final bill, the state gives depositors $10 million and risks $15 million on unliquidated assets.
Flanked by Republican leaders from both sides of the Legislature and the thrift depositors' attorneys, the governor called the differences between his plan and the bill "modifications" that he said weren't major.
During the early evening press conference convened after the adjournment of the special session, Bangerter said that in some instances, the lawmakers may have improved his original plan. For example, he cited a provision calling for a screening panel to decide who could be sued by the depositors, the state and the state's insurance company.
While the governor stressed that the legislation was a bipartisan effort, Democratic House and Senate leadership stayed away from the press conference. House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said Democrats didn't want it to appear that Bangerter was responsible for the settlement. That credit, he said, belonged to Democrats.
While the measure did pass both houses, it failed to get a two-thirds vote. Some lawmakers didn't like giving $10 million of taxpayer money to depositors with only a slight chance of getting any of it back through future lawsuits against failed thrift owners and their attorneys and accountants.
Others didn't think the thrifts' failure was the state's responsibility at all. They believed the state would win the court battles. They also argue that if even one depositor opts out of the settlement, the state will end up in court anyway and so little money in litigation costs will be saved.
Still others didn't think a complicated issue like the thrift settlement should be decided in a short special session, with an election just a month away coloring the outcome.
And while those in favor of the bill say "it's a done deal," the state's insurance carrier still hasn't agreed to put up its $19 million share. California Union Insurance Co. agreed to contribute $19 million under Bangerter's plan, but has never formally agreed to continue that commitment under the variety of "compromise" plans, including the final bill, that followed. It has always been assumed, however, that the company would give $19 million.
Democrats in the House played a key role in the final battle. A two-thirds vote was needed Monday to approve a technical bill required before the main thrift bill could be considered. But Democrats withheld their votes, and so two-thirds wasn't reached. The Democrats didn't like the GOP-leadership's bill, waiting in the wings, that would have given depositors $90 million in relief instead of $100 million.
The Democrats also didn't like being snubbed. The GOP leadership put together their bill last week without consulting the Democrats or the depositors. Misuraca threatened that the depositors would reject the GOP bill. Democrats claimed that is what the Republicans wanted this election year: a settlement offer that wouldn't be accepted. But cooler heads prevailed, and a compromise was struck. When some Republicans tried to go back on the deal and brought up the controversial GOP bill Tuesday in the House, it was soundly defeated.
The final settlement bill, which becomes law in 60 days, should return about 90 cents for each dollar lost in savings. It doesn't pay for any depositor attorney fees or consultant fees directly; those fees will be decided by the courts or by the depositors themselves. The bill doesn't pay any interest lost to depositors on the money in limbo the past two years.
Depositors lost about $106 million when the state took over five failed thrifts and loans in July 1986. Depositors have since sued the state, claiming state financial officials participated in a fraud knowing the state-created deposit guarantee fund was insolvent. The settlement bill is aimed at keeping the state out of court and reducing its liability in the messy matter.