Federal regulators late Friday announced $3 billion-plus bail-outs of insolvent savings and loan institutions, part of the packages that will have rescued 222 ailing S&Ls, a post-Depression record, before the end of 1988.
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board put the cost to the government of all 222 bailout packages at $38.6 billion.One of the largest bailouts involved $1.6 billion in government aid, which will go to First Nationwide Financial Corp., a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Co., to assist it in purchasing two failed S&Ls in Denver and one each in Chicago and Cleveland.
The four insolvent institutions have assets of almost $8 billion and will be merged eventually into Ford's huge savings and loan subsidiary, the First Nationwide Bank of San Francisco.
The completed deal will give the automaker the nation's second largest savings and loan business, with assets exceeding $34 billion.
Ford will put up $170 million and the government agreed to provide $1.6 billion in assistance over the next 10 years to complete the transaction.
In another large bailout, the bank board said it was providing $1.37 billion to assist in the purchase of United Savings Association of Texas, one of the state's largest S&Ls with $4.4 billion in assets and operations in 15 branches in the Houston area.
The Texas S&L was being sold to Hyperion Partners, an affiliate of the New York investment firm of Ranieri Wilson and Co. Inc., which agreed to put up $200 million to make the purchase.
In the third largest package announced Friday, the bank board said it was providing $1 billion in assistance for Golden West Financial Corp. of Oakland, Calif., to manage two insolvent Florida S&Ls.
Under the agreement, Golden West will manage the institutions and will have the option to buy one of them, Beach Federal Savings and Loan of Boynton Beach, at a later date. The other S&L that will be managed by Golden West is New Metropolitan Federal Savings and Loan, headquartered in Hialeah.
Bank board officials defended the agency against charges by critics that the year-end rush to close deals would cost taxpayers billions of dollars unnecessarily.
Bank board officials said details had been completed and released on 210 of the institutions and agreements involving another 12 institutions would be finished before a midnight Saturday deadline when tax breaks to investors will be cut in half.
Among the institutions closed on Friday were S&Ls in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Montana and Texas.
Bank Board Chairman M. Danny Wall told a press conference late Friday that the effort had been a success allowing the bank board to finally close institutions that had been insolvent for years.
The projection of resolving 222 failed institutions by the end of the year would far exceed the 48 that were closed in 1987 and approaches the all-time record of 277 set in 1938 during the Great Depression.
Critics have charged that the deals, involving some of the biggest insolvent institutions, had been unnecessarily generous to the buyers, who have included such wealthy investors as Texas billionaire Robert Bass.
Some members of Congress have complained that the deals were saddling taxpayers with billions of dollars in open-ended obligations, raising specific objections to the tax provisions, which in many cases will give the investors more in tax breaks than they are putting up to purchase the S&Ls.
Wall rejected those assertions, at one point responding in anger when asked about criticism from an unnamed official close to the incoming Bush administration.
"I don't know anything about any unnamed sources who don't have any responsibility," Wall said. "I would expect people in the administration will make the same assessments we did" concerning the appropriateness of the sales agreements.
Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich., incoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, called Friday for "an immediate, in-depth review" by the General Accounting Office of all merger approvals by the bank board during December.
He said he is concerned by news stories that suggest "many of these transactions are primarily driven by tax considerations, that insufficient capital and managerial resources are being provided by the acquirers and that the terms and conditions are overly generous to the bidders and do not adequately protect the interests of the U.S. government."