Regulators Shut Banks In Fla, Mo

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Regulators shut down banks in Florida and Missouri on Friday, bringing to six the number of bank failures so far in 2010, following 140 closures last year in the toughest economic environment since the Great Depression.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Miami-based Premier American Bank, with $350.9 million in assets and $326.3 million in deposits, and Bank of Leeton, in Leeton, Mo., with $20.1 million in assets and $20.4 million in deposits. Sunflower Bank, based in Salina, Kan., agreed to assume the deposits of Bank of Leeton. The FDIC will retain most of its assets for later sale.

The regulators used a novel procedure for Miami-based Premier American Bank, employing the first so-called “shelf charter” to give preliminary approval to a group of investors to obtain a national bank charter before acquiring a specific troubled institution. The shelf charter was inactive until the acquisition was made.

A new bank with a national charter was set up, to be called Premier American Bank N.A., to assume the deposits and assets of the failed bank. The investment firm Bond Street Holdings LLC got preliminary approval with a shelf charter on Oct. 23, and final approval was granted Friday by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks.

Also, the FDIC and the new bank agreed to share losses on $300 million of Premier American’s loans and other assets.

The failure of Premier American Bank is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $85 million; that of Bank of Leeton is expected to cost $8.1 million.

As the economy has soured, with unemployment rising, home prices tumbling and loan defaults soaring, bank failures have accelerated and sapped billions out of the federal deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year.

The 140 bank failures last year were the highest annual tally since 1992, at the height of the savings and loan crisis. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. The failures compare with 25 in 2008 and three in 2007.

The number of bank failures is expected to rise further this year. The FDIC expects the cost of resolving failed banks to grow to about $100 billion over the next four years.

The agency last year mandated banks to prepay about $45 billion in premiums, for 2010 through 2012, to replenish the insurance fund.

Depositors’ money – insured up to $250,000 per account – is not at risk, with the FDIC backed by the government. Besides the fund, the FDIC has about $21 billion in cash available in reserve to cover losses at failed banks.

Banks have been especially hurt by failed real estate loans, both residential and commercial. Banks that had lent to seemingly solid businesses are suffering losses as buildings sit vacant. As development projects collapse, builders are defaulting on their loans.

If the economic recovery falters, defaults on the high-risk loans could spike. Many regional banks hold large concentrations of these loans. Nearly $500 billion in commercial real estate loans are expected to come due annually over the next few years.

This week, President Barack Obama called for limits on the size and investments of big Wall Street banks to help stave off a fresh economic meltdown. Obama’s proposal, which would need Congress’ approval to take effect, includes barring banks that take deposits from also trading securities for their own profit. It also would separate commercial banks from investment banks, a line that was blurred a decade ago by legislation reversing Depression-era restraints.

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