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February 15, 1994 6GONOMIC COMMeNTORY Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland The National Depositor Preference Law by James B. Thomson -Liast August 10, Congress passed the • The Legislative Provisions Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of Title III of OBRA93 instituted depositor preference for all insured depository insti- The national depositor preference 1993 (OBRA93). Contained in this legis- tutions by amending Section 1 l(d)(l 1) of law was added to the 1993 budget act lation was a provision that dramatically the Federal Deposit Insurance Corpora- to reduce the government's cost of revised the priority of claims on failed de- tion Act.2 The amendment establishes providing deposit insurance. A care- pository institutions. The Act's effect was the following priority of payment in re- ful look at depositor preference and to give depositors (and, by implication, solving failed depositories: its attendant effects suggests that it the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will provide only minor cost savings. [FDIC]) a superior, or preferred, claim on In fact, in some cases it could increase a failed bank's assets relative to that of 1. Administrative expenses of the receiver the Federal Deposit Insurance Corpo- other general creditors. By doing so, Con- ration's losses from bank failures. gress hoped to reduce the FDIC's losses 2. Deposit liabilities from bank failures. In fact, the Office of 3. General or senior liabilities Management and Budget estimated that a 4. Subordinated obligations national depositor preference law could cut 5. Shareholder claims the FDIC's expected losses by $1 billion over the next five years. Prior to passage, general or other senior liabilities had the same priority of pay- Being buried in a much larger piece of ment as deposits. As before, secured legislation, depositor preference received creditors of the failed institution will little public attention and was passed with have their claims satisfied first, up to the almost no debate. This is unfortunate, be- amount of the collateral. This is an impor- cause economic policies often have unin- tant detail, since one avenue for general tended, secondary effects that dominate or senior creditors to pursue in reaction to the intended ones. In the case of deposi- depositor preference laws is to take collat- tor preference laws, the general creditors eral to protect their claim. of banking firms are likely to take action to protect their claims. As a consequence, On August 13, 1993, the FDIC issued the loss exposure of the FDIC could actu- an interim rule interpreting the deposi- ally increase. tor preference amendment.3 The im- portance of this rule is that it clarifies In this article, we take a critical look at what the FDIC will consider as admin- depositor preference. The first section istrative expenses of the receiver. Un- outlines the new legislation and the der the FDIC's interpretation, these in- FDIC's implementation of it, and the clude "post-appointment obligations second examines the way in which de- incurred by the receiver as part of the positor preference restructures a bank's liquidation of an institution ... and cer- liabilities. We then examine the possi- tain expenses incurred prior to the ap- ble reactions of nondeposit creditors to pointment of the receiver."4 In other this restructuring and discuss the impli- words, the receiver (which for most cations for policy. banks and thrifts is the FDIC) may pay expenses it deems consistent with the orderly closure of the institution, even A SIMPLE BANK BALANCE SHEET claims equal $12 million, distributed as follows: insured deposits (FDIC) = $8 Assets Liabilities with No Depositor Preference million, uninsured deposits = $3 mil- lion, and general creditor claims = $1 Collateral (CA) Collateralized claims (CC) million.8 The proportion of senior claims General assets (GA) Senior claims (SC) by type are WFDIC = 0.6667 (8/12), WUD Insured deposits (FDIC) Uninsured deposits (UD) = 0.25, and WGCC = 0.0833. Since senior General creditor claims (GCC) claims exceed the general asset pool by Subordinated debt claims (SDB) $2 million, senior creditors are not repaid Equity (E) in full: Each loses $0.17 per dollar of claim. Without depositor preference, total Liabilities with Depositor Preference payments to senior creditors are $6,667 Collateralized claims (CC) million to the FDIC, $2,500 million to un- Deposit claims (SDC) insured depositors, and $0,833 million to Insured deposits (FDIC) general creditors (see table 1). Uninsured deposits (UD) Other senior claims (OSC) General creditor claims (GCC) Under depositor preference, general Subordinated debt claims (SDB) creditor claims would be paid after Equity (E) those of both the uninsured depositors and the FDIC (see box). Therefore, af- ter netting out the collateralized claims, the available general asset pool is used if those expenses were incurred prior to Liabilities are listed in order of priority first to satisfy the claims of depositors, closure. These pre-receivership costs of payment. with any remaining funds going to sat- include payment of the institution's last isfy the claims of the other senior credi- payroll, guard services, data processing When a depository enters receivership, tors and then the subordinated debt- services, utilities, and leases. Examples secured creditors take possession of the holders. Using numbers from the above of expenses that would be excluded specific collateral securing their claim. example, we can see the intended effect from administrative expenses are items For simplicity, we assume that collat- of depositor preference. Depositors' such as golden parachute claims, sever- eral equals collateralized claims (CA = claims (the FDIC and uninsured deposi- ance pay claims, and liabilities arising CC), so that the value of the collateral tors) equal $ 11 million. By giving each from the repudiation of contracts. exactly exhausts the claims of the se- a higher priority of payment in receiver- cured creditors.7 Without depositor ship, general creditor claims now pro- One issue not addressed by the interim preference, the general asset pool (GA) vide them with a loss buffer. Since gen- rule is the status of deposits in foreign is used first to pay the claims of senior eral assets equal $10 million, the FDIC branches of insured depositories. Such creditors. If this amount is less than the and uninsured depositors will exhaust deposits are excluded from the assess- general asset pool, then the residual the asset pool. Losses per dollar of de- ment base of the FDIC and thus, for pur- funds (GA - SC) are used to meet the posit are $0.09, 45 percent less than poses of deposit insurance, are different claims of the junior (subordinated) without depositor preference. For com- from domestic deposit claims. Conse- creditors, with any remainder accruing parison purposes, payments are $7,273 quently, a reasonable interpretation of the to equityholders. If, however, senior million to the FDIC, $2,727 million to depositor preference statute is that for- creditor claims exceed the value of the uninsured depositors, and $0 to general eign depositors are considered general institution's assets, then each senior creditors. Depositor preference reduces creditors.5 It is possible that the FDIC's claimant will share in the shortfall in the losses of the FDIC and uninsured final ruling will reflect this view. proportion to his claim. That is, each depositors by redistributing wealth to will receive W*(GA) in payments, them from the general creditors. where Wi is the percentage of total • A Simple Look senior claims accounted for by the /"' at Depositor Preference senior creditor (/ = FDIC, uninsured de- • Unintended Effects To understand the impact of depositor posits [UD], and general creditor of Depositor Preference preference, it is useful to look at a sim- claims [GCC]). The above example illustrates how de- ple example of the bank receivership positor preference is intended to work. process both before and after passage To see how depositor preference is in- However, general creditors of insured ofOBRA93.6 We assume here that the tended to work, consider the following depositories will certainly respond to administrative claims of the receiver example. Let the value of collateralized the changes in the priority of their have already been paid. Above, we assets and collateralized claims be claims and the attendant increase in show a simplified bank balance sheet equal. Furthermore, let the total general riskiness. At the very least, they will with and without depositor preference. asset pool equal $10 million and senior charge the depository institution a TABLE 1 PAYMENTS TO SENIOR CLAIMANTS concludes that depositor preference (Millions of dollars) may provide marginal benefits to the deposit insurer and uninsured deposi- Depositor Preference tors, but it also warns that each could No Depositor Preference Intended Outcome Unintended Outcome experience higher losses if enough non- (GA = $10 Million) (GA = $10 Million) (GA = $9.16 Million) deposit creditors secure their claims by Claimant Wi Payment Wi Payment Wi Payment taking collateral. FDIC 0.6667 $6,667 0.7273 $7,273 0.7273 $6,662 • Conclusion UD 0.2500 $2,500 0.2727 $2,727 0.2727 $2,498 The overall impact of national depositor GCC 0.0833 $0,833 — $0,000 — $0,000 preference is likely to be minimal. Clearly, the law will result in some NOTES: changes in the liability structure of W, = Weight of the /''' claimant in the general asset pool. banks. Depositors and the FDIC will GA = General asset pool remaining after secured creditors' claim. benefit from these changes to the ex- FDIC = Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's claim. tent that nondeposit creditors serve as a UD = Uninsured depositors' claim. GCC = General creditors' claim. loss buffer when a bank is closed. The SOURCE: Author's calculations. FDIC may also gain in another way. Deposit insurance premiums are assessed only on domestic deposits. Since deposi- higher rate of interest to compensate buffer afforded by general creditor tor preference raises a bank's cost of for their increased risk of loss. As the claims will be reduced. Second, and nondeposit funds relative to deposits, it cost of nondeposit funds rises relative more important, the general asset pool reduces the advantages of issuing sen- to deposits, depositories will decrease available to pay unsecured claims will ior nondeposit liabilities to avoid de- their funding in nondeposit markets. also shrink. If enough general creditor posit insurance assessments. This is Thus, the loss buffer that nondeposit claims take collateral, the total loss especially true if foreign deposits are creditors afford to uninsured depositors exposure of the FDIC and uninsured classified as nondeposit liabilities under and the FDIC will be reduced. depositors could increase. the new law. A second possible response by senior To see this, consider the example in the On the flip side, nondeposit creditors will nondeposit creditors would be to short- previous section. If $840,000 of gen- not react passively to the subordination en the average maturity of their claims. eral creditor claims become fully se- of their claims. This means that while de- By doing so, they would enhance their cured (that is, 100 percent collateral - positor preference may produce some ability to "run" on the institution if its ized) in response to the depositor cost savings for the FDIC in the short condition deteriorates. In fact, finan- preference law, then the general asset term, the long-term benefits are likely to cially distressed depositories may find pool available to pay the FDIC and un- be greatly diminished. Moreover, if a suf- it difficult or even impossible to issue insured depositors would be $9.16 mil- ficient number of nondeposit creditors unsecured nondeposit claims. This re- lion. The total payouts would then be take collateral and hence convert their sponse has two implications: First, if $6,662 million to the FDIC, $2,498 mil- claims to ones senior to deposits, the nondeposit creditors can effectively lion to uninsured depositors, and $0 to losses of uninsured depositors and the exit a troubled institution before it is general creditors. As a result, depositor FDIC could actually increase. closed, little or no loss cushion will be preference would increase the losses of afforded to the uninsured depositors or the FDIC and uninsured depositors by the FDIC by the general creditors. Sec- $5,000 and $2,000, respectively. ond, the failure of nondeposit creditors to renew their claims could trigger a A recent study of state depositor prefer- liquidity crisis that would result in clo- ence laws finds that the unintended ef- sure of the institution.9 fects negate most of the intended ones.10 The authors conclude that in- The third option for unsecured creditors troducing depositor preference at the is to take collateral against their claim. federal level "would sharply increase By becoming secured creditors, they the use of collateralization by nonde- transform their claim into one that is posit creditors...." They also show that senior (to the extent of the collateral) to the highest degree of collateralization deposit claims. This in turn will have by nondeposit creditors in states with two effects on the claims of uninsured depositor preference laws is in troubled depositors and the FDIC. First, the loss and insolvent thrifts. Overall, the study • Footnotes 6. For a more thorough presentation of how 9. The decision to close a bank is based on 1. The Office of Management and Budget's depositor preference affects the cost of capi- one of two measures of solvency: the inca- estimate can be found in Statement 98 of the tal for banks and federal deposit insurance, pacity to pay obligations as they mature or Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee, see William P. Osterberg and James B. Thom- book-value balance-sheet insolvency. Inabil- "The New Depositor Preference Legislation," son, "Depositor Preference and the Cost of ity to renew nondeposit credits could trigger issued September 20,1993. Capital for Insured Depository Institutions," insolvency under the maturing obligations Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working test. See James B. Thomson, "Modeling the 2. 12U.S.C. 1821 (d)( 11). At the time na- Paper 9405 (forthcoming). Bank Regulator's Closure Option: A Two- tional depositor preference was enacted, 29 Step Logit Regression Approach," Journal of states had similar laws covering state-chartered 7. If CA > CC, then the excess collateral Financial Services Research, vol. 6, no. 1 banks and 18 had statutes covering state- (CA - CC) is dumped into the general asset (May 1992), pp. 5-23. chartered thrift institutions. pool for distribution to noncollateralized 3. The interim rule was issued because the creditors. If CC > CA, then the ex post unse- 10. See Eric Hirschhorn and David Zervos, law went into effect immediately upon enact- cured claims (CC - CA) are lumped into the "Policies to Change the Priority of Claimants: ment of the legislation. Thus, the FDIC did senior claim pool as a general creditor. The Case of Depositor Preference Laws," Jour- not have the luxury of issuing a rule for com- 8. The FDIC guarantees the principal and nal of Financial Sendees Research, vol. 4, no. ment and then implementing a revised ver- interest of all deposit accounts up to $100,000. 1 (March 1990), pp. 111-26. sion. See Federal Register, vol. 58, no. 155 When a bank enters receivership, it is appro- (August 13, 1993), pp. 43,069 - 070. At the priate to think of the FDIC as paying off the time of this writing, the FDIC had not issued insured depositors in exchange for their claim its final ruling. on the institution's assets. Hence, our discus- James B. Thomson is an assistant vice presi- sion of how depositor preference works re- dent and economist at the Federal Reserve 4. Ibid. fers to deposits as uninsured depositor claims Bank of Cleveland. 5. In fact, the Shadow Financial Regulatory and FDIC claims. The views stated herein are those of the Committee adopted this interpretation. See "The New Depositor Preference Legislation" author and not necessarily those of the Fed- (footnote 1). eral Reserve Bank of Cleveland or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. BULK RATE Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland U.S. Postage Paid Research Department Cleveland, OH P.O. Box 6387 Permit No. 385 Cleveland, OH 44101 Address Correction Requested: Please send corrected mailing label to the above address. Material may be reprinted provided that the source is credited. Please send copies of reprinted materials to the editor.
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