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A savings and loan association (S&L), or thrift institution, is a financial institution that specializes in accepting savings deposits and making mortgage and other loans. The terms "S&L" or "thrift" are mainly used in the United States; similar institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries include building societies and trustee savings banks. They are often mutually held (often called mutual savings banks), meaning that the depositors and borrowers are members with voting rights, and have the ability to direct the financial and managerial goals of the organization like the members of a credit union or the policyholders of a mutual insurance company. While it is possible for an S&L to be a joint-stock company, and even publicly traded, in such instances it is no longer truly a mutual association, and depositors and borrowers no longer have membership rights and managerial control. By law, thrifts can have no more than 20 percent of their lending in commercial loans — their focus on mortgage and consumer loans makes them particularly vulnerable to housing downturns such as the deep one the U.S. experienced in 2007.
At the beginning of the 19th century, banking was still something only done by those who had assets or wealth that needed safekeeping. The first savings bank in the United States, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, was established on December 20, 1816, and by the 1830s such institutions had become widespread.
In the United Kingdom, the first savings bank was founded in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan, Doctor of Divinity, the minister of Ruthwell Church in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is home to the Savings Bank Museum, in which there are records relating to the history of the savings bank movement in the United Kingdom, as well as family memorabilia relating to Henry Duncan and other prominent people of the surrounding area. However the main type of institution similar to U.S. savings and loan associations in the United Kingdom is not the savings bank, but the building society and had existed since the 1770s.
The savings and loan association became a strong force in the early 20th century through assisting people with home ownership, through mortgage lending, and further assisting their members with basic saving and investing outlets, typically through passbook savings accounts and term certificates of deposit.
The savings and loan associations of this era were famously portrayed in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life .
The earliest mortgages were not offered by banks, but by insurance companies, and they differed greatly from the mortgage or home loan that is familiar today. Most early mortgages were short with some kind of balloon payment at the end of the term, or they were interest-only loans which did not pay anything toward the principal of the loan with each payment. As such, many people were either perpetually in debt in a continuous cycle of refinancing their home purchase, or they lost their home through foreclosure when they were unable to make the balloon payment at the end of the term of that loan.
The US Congress passed the Federal Home Loan Bank Act in 1932, during the Great Depression. It established the Federal Home Loan Bank and associated Federal Home Loan Bank Board to assist other banks in providing funding to offer long term, amortized loans for home purchases. The idea was to get banks involved in lending, not insurance companies, and to provide realistic loans which people could repay and gain full ownership of their homes.
Savings and loan associations sprang up all across the United States because there was low-cost funding available through the Federal Home Loan Bank Act.
Savings and loans were given a certain amount of preferential treatment by the Federal Reserve inasmuch as they were given the ability to pay higher interest rates on savings deposits compared to a regular commercial bank. This was known as Regulation Q (The Interest Rate Adjustment Act of 1966) and gave the S&Ls 50 basis points above what banks could offer. The idea was that with marginally higher savings rates, savings and loans would attract more deposits that would allow them to continue to write more mortgage loans, which would keep the mortgage market liquid, and funds would always be available to potential borrowers.
However, savings and loans were not allowed to offer checking accounts until the late 1970s. This reduced the attractiveness of savings and loans to consumers, since it required consumers to hold accounts across multiple institutions in order to have access to both checking privileges and competitive savings rates.
In the 1980s the situation changed. The United States Congress granted all thrifts in 1980, including savings and loan associations, the power to make consumer and commercial loans and to issue transaction accounts. The Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) of 1980was designed to help the banking industry to combat disintermediation of funds to higher-yielding non-deposit products such as money market mutual funds. It also allowed thrifts to make consumer loans up to 20 percent of their assets, issue credit cards, and provide negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts to consumers and nonprofit organizations. Over the next several years, this was followed by provisions that allowed banks and thrifts to offer a wide variety of new market-rate deposit products. For S&Ls, this deregulation of one side of the balance sheet essentially led to more inherent interest rate risk inasmuch as they were funding long-term, fixed-rate mortgage loans with volatile shorter-term deposits.
In 1982, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Actwas passed and increased the proportion of assets that thrifts could hold in consumer and commercial real estate loans and allowed thrifts to invest 5 percent of their assets in commercial, corporate, business, or agricultural loans until January 1, 1984, when this percentage increased to 10 percent.
During the Savings and Loan Crisis, from 1986 to 1995, the number of federally insured savings and loans in the United States declined from 3,234 to 1,645.Analysts mostly attribute this to unsound real estate lending. The market share of S&Ls for single family mortgage loans went from 53% in 1975 to 30% in 1990.
The following is a detailed summary of the major causes for losses that hurt the S&L business in the 1980s according to the United States League of Savings Associations:
While not specifically identified above, a related specific factor was that S&Ls and their lending management were often inexperienced with the complexities and risks associated with commercial and more complex loans as distinguished from their roots with "simple" home mortgage loans.
As a result, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) dramatically changed the savings and loan industry and its federal regulation. Here are the highlights of this legislation, signed into law on August 9, 1989:
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 had also eliminated the ability for investors to reduce regular wage income by so-called "passive" losses incurred from real estate investments, e.g., depreciation and interest deductions. This caused real estate value to decline as investors pulled out of this sector.
The most important purpose of savings and loan associations is to make mortgage loans on residential property. These organizations, which also are known as savings associations, building and loan associations, cooperative banks (in New England), and homestead associations (in Louisiana), are the primary source of financial assistance to a large segment of American homeowners. As home-financing institutions, they give primary attention to single-family residences and are equipped to make loans in this area.
Some of the most important characteristics of a savings and loan association are:
Accounts at savings banks were insured by the FDIC. When the Western Savings Bank of Philadelphia failed in 1982, it was the FDIC that arranged its absorption into the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS).[ citation needed ] Savings banks were limited by law to only offer savings accounts and to make their income from mortgages and student loans. Savings banks could pay one-third of 1% higher interest on savings than could a commercial bank. PSFS circumvented this by offering "payment order" accounts which functioned as checking accounts and were processed through the Fidelity Bank of Pennsylvania.[ citation needed ] The rules were loosened so that savings banks could offer automobile loans, credit cards, and actual checking accounts.[ citation needed ] In time PSFS became a full commercial bank.
Accounts at savings and loans were insured by the FSLIC. Some savings and loans did become savings banks, such as First Federal Savings Bank of Pontiac in Michigan. What gave away their heritage was their accounts continued to be insured by the FSLIC.
Savings and loans accepted deposits and used those deposits, along with other capital that was in their possession, to make loans. What was revolutionary was that the management of the savings and loan was determined by those that held deposits and in some instances had loans. The amount of influence in the management of the organization was determined based on the amount on deposit with the institution.
The overriding goal of the savings and loan association was to encourage savings and investment by common people and to give them access to a financial intermediary that otherwise had not been open to them in the past. The savings and loan was also there to provide loans for the purchase of large ticket items, usually homes, for worthy and responsible borrowers. The early savings and loans were in the business of "neighbors helping neighbors".
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is one of two agencies that provide deposit insurance to depositors in U.S. depository institutions, the other being the National Credit Union Administration, which regulates and insures credit unions. The FDIC is a United States government corporation providing deposit insurance to depositors in U.S. commercial banks and savings banks. The FDIC was created by the 1933 Banking Act, enacted during the Great Depression to restore trust in the American banking system. More than one-third of banks failed in the years before the FDIC's creation, and bank runs were common. The insurance limit was initially US$2,500 per ownership category, and this was increased several times over the years. Since the passage of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2011, the FDIC insures deposits in member banks up to US$250,000 per ownership category.
The savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s was the failure of 1,043 out of the 3,234 savings and loan associations (S&Ls) in the United States from 1986 to 1995: the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) closed or otherwise resolved 296 institutions from 1986 to 1989 and the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) closed or otherwise resolved 747 institutions from 1989 to 1995.
The Community Reinvestment Act is a United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Congress passed the Act in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining.
The Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation is a Canadian federal Crown Corporation created by Parliament in 1967 to provide deposit insurance to depositors in Canadian commercial banks and savings institutions. CDIC insures Canadians' deposits held at Canadian banks up to C$100,000 in case of a bank failure. CDIC automatically insures many types of savings against the failure of a financial institution. However, the bank must be a CDIC member and not all savings are insured. CDIC is also Canada's resolution authority for banks, federally regulated credit unions, trust and loan companies as well as associations governed by the Cooperative Credit Associations Act that take deposits.
The Federal Home Loan Banks are 11 U.S. government-sponsored banks that provide reliable liquidity to member financial institutions to support housing finance and community investment. With their members, the FHLBanks represents the largest collective source of home mortgage and community credit in the United States.
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) was a board created in 1932 that governed the Federal Home Loan Banks also created by the act, the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) and nationally-chartered thrifts. It was abolished and superseded by the Federal Housing Finance Board and the Office of Thrift Supervision in 1989 due to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, as Federal Home Loan Banks gave favorable lending to the thrifts it regulated leading to regulatory capture.
An industrial loan company (ILC) or industrial bank is a financial institution in the United States that lends money, and may be owned by non-financial institutions. They provide niche financial services nationwide. ILCs offer FDIC-insured deposits and are subject to FDIC and state regulator oversight. All "FDIC-insured entities are subject to Sections 23A and 23B of the Federal Reserve Act, which limits bank transactions with affiliates, including the non-bank parent company." (FDIC.gov) ILCs are permitted to have branches in multiple states. They are regulated and supervised by state-charters and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. They are authorized to make consumer and commercial loans and accept federally insured deposits. Banks may not accept demand deposits if the bank has total assets greater than $100 million. ILCs are exempted from the Bank Holding Company Act.
Chevy Chase Bank, F.S.B. was the largest locally based banking company in the Washington Metropolitan Area. It was acquired by Capital One in February 2009, and rebranded as Capital One Bank in September 2010. Despite its name, Chevy Chase Bank was a federally chartered thrift regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision, rather than a bank.
The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), is a United States federal law enacted in the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.
The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) was an institution that administered deposit insurance for savings and loan institutions in the United States.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005, was an act of the United States Congress on banking regulation. It contained a number of changes to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
IndyMac, a contraction of Independent National Mortgage Corporation, was an American bank based in California that failed in 2008 and was seized by the United States Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB) was an independent agency of the United States government established in 1989 in the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis to take over management of the Federal Home Loan Banks from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB), and was superseded by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in 2008.
Bank regulation in the United States is highly fragmented compared with other G10 countries, where most countries have only one bank regulator. In the U.S., banking is regulated at both the federal and state level. Depending on the type of charter a banking organization has and on its organizational structure, it may be subject to numerous federal and state banking regulations. Apart from the bank regulatory agencies the U.S. maintains separate securities, commodities, and insurance regulatory agencies at the federal and state level, unlike Japan and the United Kingdom. Bank examiners are generally employed to supervise banks and to ensure compliance with regulations.
Benj. Franklin Savings and Loan was a thrift based in Portland, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Founded in 1925, the company was seized by the United States Government in 1990. In 1996 the United States Supreme Court found that this and similar seizures were based on an unconstitutional provision of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA). Shareholders of the thrift sued the federal government for damages caused by the seizure, with the shareholders winning several rounds in the courts. In 2013, $9.5 million was allocated for disbursement to shareholders.
The New York State Banking Department was created by the New York Legislature on April 15, 1851, with a chief officer to be known as the Superintendent. The New York State Banking Department was the oldest bank regulatory agency in the United States.
The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a United States federal law that was enacted on July 21, 2010. The law overhauled financial regulation in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and it made changes affecting all federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every part of the nation's financial services industry.
The National Mortgage Crisis of the 1930s was a Depression-era crisis in the United States characterized by high-default rates and soaring loan-to-value ratios in the residential housing market. Rapid expansion in the residential non-farm housing market through the 1920s created a housing bubble inflated in part by ad hoc innovation on the part of the four primary financial intermediaries – commercial banks, life insurance companies, mutual savings banks, and Building & Loans (thrifts). As a result, the federal overhaul stemming from New Deal legislation gave rise to a paradigmatic shift in mortgage lending, popularizing longer-term maturity, fully amortizing mortgages and creating a thick secondary market for mortgage-related securities.
The Financing Corporation (FICO) was a federally established mixed-ownership corporation that assumed all the assets and liabilities of the insolvent Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) and operated as a financing vehicle for the FSLIC Resolution Fund after the former was abolished by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA).
Franklin Savings Association was an Ottawa, Kansas-based American Savings and loan association that was one of the largest seizures of the savings and loan crisis. Subsequent litigation established that the institution had always been in full capital compliance, a fact to which the FDIC stipulated in 2011, after 21 years of legal challenges by Franklin's shareholders. Also, the FDIC refused to open its books to a bankruptcy judge and never demonstrated that the seizure resulted in a loss to the American taxpayers. It is widely believed that Franklin's assets, which had a book value of more than $380 million when seized, were ultimately sold by the government to private investors at a significant profit.