GAO chief expected to tell Congress that S&L bailout is in disarray

June 11, 1991|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Despite forecasts of a turnaround, new figures show that the banking industry is still deep in crisis.

The financial woes do not end there: The disclosure came as the nation's senior auditor prepared to tell Congress that the savings and loan bailout is in such disarray that its costs cannot be estimated.

On the banking front, the nation's senior regulator doubled his estimates for losses to the fund that insures deposits in commercial banks.

The report that the fund could lose as much as $23.1 billion in1991 and 1992 was tucked away in the last paragraph of a news release from L. William Seidman on the condition of the savings and loan rescue.

Mr. Seidman is the senior official for both the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Resolution Trust Corp., which oversees the savings and loan bailout.

To be sure, most regulators say the condition of the banking industry is not so grave as to require the kind of taxpayer bailout now under way to rescue the nation's savings and loans.

Today, Comptroller General Charles A. Bowsher will tell Congress that Resolution Trust is in such disarray that it cannot be audited by the General Accounting Office and that the ultimate cost of the rescue thus cannot be calculated.

Mr. Bowsher heads the GAO, which is required to provide Congress with an audit of the trust corporation by the end of June every year.

Worried about the political impact of Mr. Bowsher's assessment on requests for more money for the bailout, the administration announced yesterday that it had appointed the deputy secretaries of the treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to "investigate and coordinate" audits of the trust corporation. Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady is expected to go toCongress in two weeks with such a request.

For the FDIC fund that insures bank deposits, Mr. Brady has not sought new capital, but instead has asked Congress to increase to $70 billion the fund's ability to borrow from the government.

Earlier this year, Mr. Seidman estimated that the bank insurance fund would post losses of about $14.9 billion in 1991 and 1992 from the collapse of 340 banks.

The actual value of the insurance fund is in dispute. Mr. Seidman said that his agency's preliminary audit showed that the fund was worth $8.4 billion at the end of last year.

Mr. Bowsher has said the fund isalready "virtually insolvent" because it must also account for those banks that are likely to fail.

Mr. Bowsher is expected to tell the Senate Banking Committee that Resolution Trust is likely to spend significantly more than the $130 billion projected last year.

Earlier yesterday, the GAO made public a letter to Mr. Brady, sent in response to his request that the auditors identify specific problems at the Resolution Trust Corp. In a scathing portrayal of the trust corporation, the accounting office, an investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the agency had been unable to keep track of its assets from seized institutions.

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