Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bank Holding Company files for Bankruptcy, Bank Still Operates

by Bill McBride on 12/02/2009 12:31:00 PM

In a somewhat unusual move, a bank holding company filed for bankruptcy yesterday while the insured subsidiary (AmTrust Bank) continued to operate. Here was the news from Bloomberg: AmTrust Financial Files for Bankruptcy in Cleveland (ht Brian)

AmTrust Financial Corp., owner of the Cleveland-based AmTrust Bank that expanded rapidly into Florida and Arizona, filed for bankruptcy, blaming investments in home loans that lost value in the recession.
SNL has more: AmTrust bankruptcy may do little to save its bank

SNL cites Lawrence White, a former Federal Home Loan Bank Board member and now an economist at New York University's Stern School of Business, suggesting that the bank may have posed a risk to the other business lines of the holding company.
"This sounds to me like a pre-emptive move by the holding company," White said. He added that FDIC action at the bank level could come soon.
And SNL quotes economist Ken Thomas of independent bank consultancy K.H. Thomas Associates:
"My guess is that (regulators) shopped this around with no takers."
...
"You can't have a bank out there with a bankrupt parent, especially when it appears that the finances of the bank had a lot to do with the need for the filing. [FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair] is going to have to do something about this soon, whether she wants to or not."
CIT would be another example of the bank holding company filing for bankruptcy while the bank continues to operate. However, in the case of CIT, it was the other business lines that caused most of the problems, although the bank is operating under a Cease&Desist order.

AmTrust Bank recently reported $11.4 billion in assets, so this is a large bank and a strong candidate for BFF.