The count isn't final, but it appears thrift depositors have overwhelmingly approved a settlement of their lawsuit against the state - clearing the way for depositors to retrieve an estimated 98 percent of their money lost in the 1986 collapse of Utah's thrift industry.

Accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co., which was appointed by 3rd District Court to conduct the balloting, had not released a final count as of Tuesday - the day after ballots were due.However, preliminary reports show enough depositors have voted in favor of the settlement that remaining uncounted ballots could not change the result. Depositors of Insured Thrifts (DOIT) reported that 6,000 of 7,000 households that received ballots have voted. Those 6,000 votes represent about 14,000 of the 16,800 accounts. Votes cast against the settlement have ranged from only two to six, according to DOIT and media reports.

At least 90 percent of depositors must approve the settlement for it to become effective after final court approval. Depositors who don't submit a ballot will be counted as approvals.

Ballots must be postmarked Nov. 21, a DOIT spokeswoman said, so votes are still trickling in. The final count will be available later this week. DOIT has been unable to contact about 200 depositors.

Officials are working to distribute part of the settlement before Christmas.

The settlement, approved by the Legislature early last month, settles depositors' class-action claims against the state and several thrift officials, relating to the failure of five thrift and loans holding an estimated $105 million in savings deposits. The thrifts closed their doors after a state-created, private deposit insurance fund was declared insolvent on July 31, 1986.

Although the settlement returns $103 million of the estimated $105 million, depositors have millions of dollars in legal and other fees to pay from the settlement as a result of their legal battle. Judge David S. Young will review the the settlement on Nov. 30.

Under terms of the settlement, depositors will receive $29 million cash and a $15 million loan from the state. The loan will be repaid as thrift assets are liquidated, while remaining liquidation proceeds - estimated at $16.7 million - go directly to depositors.