By Denise Tessier
Win Quigley has done it again.
Answered my questions, that is.
From reading Albuquerque Journal stories about Charter Bank over the years, I had the impression it was one of the better-run financial institutions, a bank that actually served the New Mexico community.
On Tuesday, Quigley weighed in with “Charter: A Case of Regulators Run Amok,” and confirmed that impression – and confirmed the worst: that Charter was a victim of circumstance, punished for the sins of its irresponsible bretheren.
Quigley couldn’t be clearer in explaining what was done to Charter and the asset New Mexico might have lost through the fed decision — might have because we can only hope the group that bought Charter’s remaining assets will equally be of service here. We just don’t know yet.
Quigley’s explanation, in part:
Based on national trends, economic conditions and guidelines from Washington, OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision) examiners believed real estate developers and commercial real estate purchasers to whom Charter made loans might not pay their bills. So they told Charter to reduce the value of those loans by several million dollars just in case people stopped paying their bills. It’s just a bookkeeping entry, but it was enough to reduce on paper Charter’s capital to below levels the feds require. . . .
It is absolutely true that a bank should have a reserve on its balance sheet against the possibility that some number of loans aren’t repaid, but that number should have some basis in reality. OTS requirements appear to be based on some national formula that seems to bear no resemblance to facts on the ground in New Mexico. I say this because several other bankers I’ve talked with, including those regulated by other agencies, all have the same story. Their commercial real estate portfolios are being arbitrarily reduced in value not because of anything happening in New Mexico but pegged to a number pulled out of someone’s hat 2,000 miles away from here and based on real estate conditions in Florida and Las Vegas, Nev.
Our congressional delegation, regulators and their colleagues nationwide should take note of Quigley’s explanation of why a good bank was needlessly dismantled and repackaged — as Quigley puts it, turned into “roadkill”:
This is happening for a couple of reasons. Frightened politicians have found it expedient to beat the stuffing out of bankers. The fact that there is a world of difference between Citigroup, which used proprietary financial trades to cut its own throat and survived only thanks to the largess of taxpayers, and Charter, which has no proprietary trading desk and couldn’t get government help if it tried, is lost on these politicians. No one sheds tears for a bank when the entire sector is tarred with one brush.
There are many very good out-of-state companies with outposts in New Mexico whose local managers become valued corporate citizens, and maybe Beal (Financial Corp.) will be one of those companies. Let’s hope so.
Meanwhile, who is going to fill the lending gap left by Charter? Helping low-income New Mexicans isn’t Beal’s line of business, and all the other small banks face the same politicized, arbitrary regulation that killed Charter.
Let’s hope those in public office read this column. There should be a public outcry.