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Sunday, January 24, 2010
Did the Obama administration cause the failure of a New Mexico bank?
Federal regulators seized Charter Bank in New Mexico this week as its capitalization fell below requirements, making it the latest of scores of banks to have failed in the economic crisis. However, the Albuquerque Journal reports that Charter faced a very low default rate on residential loans and no commercial failures, either — until the Office of Thrift Supervision, its regulator, demanded that Charter increase its declared risk fivefold (hat tip HA reader Super5): Federal authorities on Friday closed Charter Bank, a closely held, family-run financial institution known for its financing of low-income housing in New Mexico and for the philanthropy of its owners. … Last fall, Office of Thrift Supervision examiners, responding to the national collapse of real estate development, ordered Charter to increase its allowance for loan losses from $10.8 million to $55.4 million, even though Charter had no delinquent commercial construction loans and only .34 percent of the loans in its commercial real estate portfolio were behind on their payments. That order reduced the level of capital Charter had on its books. Last Wednesday, OTS ordered Charter to find new capital as a buffer against insolvency or face closure. Charter had hoped to find a buyer, but none appeared. The owners’ stake in the company was wiped out by the forced closure. How involved were they in low-income lending? The head of New Mexico’s MFA makes it clear: Charter became a major real estate lender and was especially active in underwriting and servicing mortgages for low-income housing. It worked closely with the Mortgage Finance Authority, which was established by the State Legislature to help finance low-income housing construction. According to MFA executive director Jay Czar, Charter services about 95 percent of the mortgages issued through the agency. “They are just class bankers,” Czar said. “These are guys who quite frankly really look out for the state of New Mexico. They do business larger banks wouldn’t eve