Saturday, July 04, 2009

Failed Banks and Brokered Deposits

by Bill McBride on 7/04/2009 01:02:00 AM

This article provides a history of brokered deposits, and discusses the potential dangers, and the inability of regulators to limit the practice.

From Eric Lipton and Andrew Martin at the NY Times: For Banks, Wads of Cash and Loads of Trouble

[B]rokered deposits ... is one of the primary factors in the accelerating wave of failures among small and regional banks nationwide. The estimated cost to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation over the last 18 months is $7.7 billion, and growing.
The 79 banks that have failed in the United States over the last two years had an average load of brokered deposits four times the national norm ... And a third of the failed banks, the analysis shows, had both an unusually high level of brokered deposits and an extremely high growth rate — often a disastrous recipe for banks.
The 371 still-operating banks on Foresight’s “watch list” as of March held brokered deposits that, on average, were twice the norm.
Regulators have tried to limit brokered accounts. Recently the FDIC suggested higher insurance premiums for fast growing banks that depend on brokered deposits. However, just as the FDIC tightened the rules slightly, the banks are finding new ways to attract hot money:
[B]anks — even those considered unsound — [are turning] to a “listing service,” a source of hot money by another name. Instead of paying a broker, banks pay to subscribe to an electronic bulletin board of credit unions with money to park.

One listing service, QwickRate, based in Marietta, Ga., has just 18 employees crammed into a tiny second-floor office. But it delivered $1.6 billion in hot money to banks in May, up from $450 million last May. The growth is coming partly because banks on the edge of failure are coming to the service for a lifeline.
emphasis added
This is a well known problem - George Hanc at the FDIC wrote in 1999: Deposit Insurance Reform: State of the Debate.
Owners of insolvent or barely solvent banks have strong incentives to favor risky behavior because losses are passed on to the insurer, whereas profits accrue to the owners.