Controls Tightened For First Mariner

Holding Company Must Get Ok To Pay Dividends, Add To Debt

November 28, 2009|By Eileen Ambrose | Eileen Ambrose,eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

First Mariner Bancorp reached an agreement with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., specifying that the Baltimore holding company must get regulator approval before paying dividends or taking on new debt and must come up with a plan to boost its capital, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday.

The company is the parent of 1st Mariner Bank, Baltimore's largest independent bank, which has struggled to raise capital while dealing with troubled real estate loans.

"This is just part of the ongoing saga," banking analyst Bert Ely said. First Mariner "has entered into an agreement which is basically trying to steady the ship as it works through its problems."

The agreement with regulators was reached Tuesday.

Under the terms, the bank holding company cannot pay any dividends or interest to shareholders or take on additional debt without the regulators' approval.

Within 60 days, the company must submit an acceptable plan for maintaining sufficient capital, including the source and timing of funds needed to meet capital requirements.

It must also notify regulators within 30 days after a quarter if capital falls below the level stated in the plan.

And First Mariner must notify the Reserve Bank in Virginia before it names new directors or senior executives, or changes the position of top executives.

Ely, the bank analyst, said the 1st Mariner Bank is adequately capitalized, "but only barely." And reserves set aside for losses are insufficient, he said.

"It comes down to a matter of capital. When are they going to be able to raise the capital they need?" Ely added.

Dennis Finnegan, executive vice president with First Mariner, said the agreement is similar to one reached between the bank and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in September.

First Mariner's stock fell 5 cents Friday to 74 cents per share.

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