The FDIC’s latest Quarterly Banking Profile (here) shows that as of September 30, 2009, the country’s commercial banks are continuing to struggle, and that as a result of the banks’ woes the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) is $8.2 billion in the red. The rising numbers of "problem" institutions suggests both that the number of failed banks could continue to grow and that the DIF could remain under pressure – although as discussed below, the DIF situation may not be quite as dire as the headline details might otherwise suggest.


The FDIC report states that the number of banks on the FDIC’s "problem" institution list rose during the third quarter to 552 from 416 at the end of 2Q09, and that the total assets of "problem" institutions increased from $299.8 billion to $345.9 billion. If assets at "problem" institutions of a third of a trillion dollars sound bad, that’s because it is. The FDIC reports that both the numbers and assets of "problem" institutions are "now at the highest level since the end of 1993."


The FDIC defines "problem" institutions as "those with financial, operational or managerial weaknesses that threaten their continued financial viability." To be classified as a "problem," an institution would have to be ranked as either a "4" or a "5" on the FDIC’s "scale of 1 to 5 in ascending order of supervisory concern." The FDIC does not provide the names of the "problem" institutions, nor does it specify how many of them are rated "4" and how many are rated "5."


To put the number (552) and assets ($345.9 billion) of the third quarter-end "problem" institutions into some perspective, there were "only" 171 "problem" institutions as of the end of 3Q08. In twelve months, the number of "problem" institutions more than tripled, and the assets at "problem" institutions more than doubled.


Along with the growing numbers of "problem" institutions have come an escalating number of bank failures. During the third quarter of 2009, "fifty insured institutions with combined assets of $68.8 billion failed," which represents "the largest number [of bank failures] since the second quarter of 1990 when 65 insured institutions failed." As of the September 30, 2009, 95 banks had failed, and as of November 20, 2009, the 2009 YTD total number of bank failures stood at 124.


This wave of bank failures has taken its toll on the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF). During the third quarter, the DIF decreased by $18.6 billion, to negative $8.2 billion, "primarily because of $21.7 billion in additional provision for bank failures."


Although these DIF figures sound disastrous, there is more to the story than just the reported negative figure. The FDIC’s November 24, 2009 press release accompanying the report (here) explains that the negative balance reflects a $38.9 billion "contingent loss reserve that has been set aside to cover estimated losses over the next year." In addition, the DIF balance is not the same as the FDIC’s cash resources, which stood at $23.2 billion as of the end of the third quarter.


To further bolster the FDIC’s cash position, on November 12, 2009, the FDIC’s board voted to required insured institutions to prepay three years’ of deposit insurance premiums – worth about $45 billion – at the end of 2009. The press release on the prepayment assessment can be found here.


With the increase in the number of "problem" institutions and the obvious relationship between rising numbers of "problems and the likely number of future bank failures, signs are that we could continue to see significant numbers of bank failures as we head into 2010. While I still don’t think we are going to see 1,000 failed banks by the end of 2010, we are clearly going to be seeing a lot more failed banks.


As bad as all of this is, the Quarterly Banking Profile hints at the possibility that all of the bad news might not even be out in the open yet. Among any other details, the Quarterly Banking Profile also reports that "growth in [loan loss] reserved continued to lag the rise in noncurrent loans, and the industry’s ratio of reserves to noncurrent loans declined for a 14th quarter, from 63.6 percent to 60 percent."


In terms of what all of this means for the economy, perhaps the most significant detail in the document is its report that "loan balances declined by the largest percentage since quarterly reporting began in 1984." The FDIC’s press release quotes FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair as saying that "there is no question that credit availability is an important issue for economic recovery. We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers."


Europeans Worried About Proposed U.S. Investor Protection Law: According to a November 23, 2009 Financial Times article (here), the European Commission is worried about legislation currently before Congress that would specify the circumstances under which investors could sue foreign domiciled companies in U.S. courts.


As I discussed in a prior post (here), Section 215 the Investor Protection Act of 2009 is addressed to "Extraterritorial Jurisdiction" which would amend the ’33 Act, the ’34 Act and the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 to specify that U.S. courts could properly exercise jurisdiction in any action involving "conduct with the United States that constitutes significant steps in furtherance of violation, even if the securities transaction occurs outside the United States and involves only foreign investors," as well "conduct outside the United States that has a foreseeable substantial effect in the United States."


Under the first of these two prongs, U.S. based conduct alone would be sufficient jurisdictional basis, even with respect to foreign purchasers of who purchased their shares of foreign-domiciled companies on foreign exchanges (so-called "f-cubed claimants").


The article quotes the former director of litigation for Bank of America as saying that "if this legislation passes, there will be greater opportunity for foreign companies to be hauled into U.S. courts." The article also reports that Charlie McCreevy, the European Union Commission for Internal Markets as having "expressed concern over the measure."


All-Time Worst E-Mail Faux Pas?: The title of the Clusterstock’s post (here) pretty much says it all: "Cornell Business School Employees Accidentally Email Everyone with Their Dirty Email Love Notes." Clusterstock observes that the "this might set some kind of record for the worst email mistake anyone has ever made."


Due to the family-oriented nature of this blog, The D&O Diary will not reproduce any examples of the couple’s inadvertently forwarded emails.


The good news is that the two employees involved are married. The bad news is that they are not married to each other.