Some really outstanding reporting by Columbian reporter Courtney Sherwood about the failure of Bank of Clark County, the first Washington bank seized by the state since 1993. Well worth a full read if you are trying to understand how a smaller bank got into such serious trouble. For starters, the bank began making riskier loans starting in 2005, according to The Columbian.
Another factor that seems to be worth focusing on is the issue of brokered deposits, which are (of all things) deposits made by brokers on behalf of clients, usually those seeking a higher rate of return. As Sherwood notes in her article, the FDIC has rules about this sort of thing.
With its core deposits falling, the Bank of Clark County appears to have sought out even more of the risky brokered deposits it had come to depend on. Over three months, it brought in $28.7 million this way, and brokered deposits climbed to 35.7 percent of all deposits.
Mounting loan troubles may have triggered an FDIC rule that forbids banks with lower capital ratios from taking on any more brokered deposits, though there’s not yet enough public data about the bank’s finances to be certain.
If I understand correctly, one reason brokered deposits can be risky is that large dollar amounts can quickly be pulled out of a bank when, for example, brokered CD’s expire and investors chase higher returns elsewhere. In other words, the use of brokered deposits is part of the mix, but too heavy a reliance can be dangerous.
The underlying cause of the failure, of course, was a collapse in real estate values. While it wasn’t a Southern California scale bubble, it was still a speculative bubble fueled by lax lending standards in the house buying, selling and financing industry. As we move forward, state and federal regulators (not to mention lawmakers) are going to have to come to grips with what worked and what didn’t work in terms of oversight.