Regulators shut down 2 banks in Florida and 1 in California; U.S. bank failures reach 123 this year.
U.S. regulators on Friday shuttered two more banks in Florida and one in California. Though there are some early signs of economic recovery, bank failures continue unabated. This takes the total number of bank failures to 123, compared to 25 in 2008 and 3 in 2007. 

The weak economy continues to weigh heavily on banks with a stream of loan defaults. As the industry has to tolerate bad loans that were made during the credit explosion, the trouble in the banking system goes even deeper, increasing the possibility of more bank failures. However, the regulators are trying to avoid panic by seizing banks slowly. Also, the slow seizing could be a strategy as it is hard to get buyers for so many failed banks. 

The failed banks were — Century Bank, FSB of Sarasota, Florida with $728 million in assets and $631 million in deposits, Orion Bank of Naples, Florida with about $2.7 billion in assets and $2.1 billion in deposits and Pacific Coast National Bank of San Clemente, California with $134.4 million in assets and $130.9 million in deposits. 

These bank failures represent another sizable impact on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) fund for protecting customer accounts, as it has been appointed receiver for these banks. The failure of Century Bank is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund about $344 million, Orion Bank’s failure will cost about $615 million and the failure of Pacific Coast National Bank is expected to cost about $27.4 million. 

The FDIC insures deposits at 8,195 institutions with roughly $13.5 trillion in assets. When a bank fails, it reimburses customers for deposits of up to $250,000 per account. The outbreak of bank failures has significantly stretched the regulator’s deposit insurance fund. At Jun 30, 2009, the fund corpus fell to $10.4 billion, the lowest since 1993, from $13.0 billion in the prior quarter. 

IberiaBank, based in Lafayette, Louisiana will assume both Florida-based banks’ $2.731 billion in deposits. Iberiabank also entered into a loss-share agreement with the FDIC on $656 million of Century Bank’s assets and on $1.9 billion of Orion Bank’s assets. 

Tustin, California-based Sunwest Bank will assume all of Pacific Coast National Bank’s deposits and essentially all of its assets. 

In the second quarter of 2009, the number of banks on the FDIC’s list of problem institutions grew to 416 from 305 in the first quarter. This is the highest since the savings and loan crisis in 1994. 

Increasing loan losses on commercial real estate are expected to cause hundreds more bank failures in the next few years. The FDIC anticipates the bank failures to cost about $100 billion over the next four years.

In order to replenish the declining fund, the FDIC board recently mandated the U.S. banks to pay fees for three years in advance. Also, the regulators are considering requesting the healthy banks to bail out the government soon as it is necessary to replenish the deposit insurance fund, which has slipped to 0.22% of insured deposits, below the mandated minimum of 1.15%. The FDIC also has access to the Treasury Department credit line of up to $500 billion. 

The failure of Washington Mutual last year was the largest in U.S. banking history. It was acquired by JPMorgan Chase (JPM). The other major acquirers of failed institutions since 2008 include Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), U.S. Bancorp, Zions Bancorp (ZION), SunTrust Banks (STI), PNC Financial (PNC), BB&T Corporation (BBT) and Regions Financial (RF). 

The failed banks are victims of recession and rising loan losses. As a result of the ongoing market turmoil, these institutions experienced massive capital erosion stemming from losses due to a significant exposure to collateralized mortgage obligations, commercial real estate loans and other commercial and industrial loans. All these factors were responsible for a drag on profitability and write-downs.

According to the FDIC, the bank failures have cost the federal deposit insurance fund more than $28 billion so far this year. Though current signals indicate that the economy may stabilize, we expect loan losses on commercial real estate portfolio to remain high for banks that hold large amounts of high-risk loans.
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