Texas Thrift Customers Questioning Proposed Depositor Fee
DALLAS (AP) _ Savings and loan customers were grumbling Friday about a proposal to slap them with a new fee in order to bail out failing thrifts, but S&L officials say they’ve seen few withdrawals as a result of the proposal.
But depositors asked in a spot check of Dallas savings and loans on Friday indicated they would wait and see if the fee actually was adopted before taking any action.
Judy Rollerson, a teller at Metropolitan Savings, said several customers mentioned the proposal but none indicated they would close their accounts.
″They don’t think it will really happen,″ she said. ″They’re just talking about how preposterous it really is.″
Savings and loan officials have been watching customer reaction since the Bush administration indicated that one option for financing a federal bailout of troubled thrifts would be to charge S&L, bank and credit union customers 25 cents per every $100 they had deposited.
The measure would require Congressional approval.
M. Danny Wall, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, said Thursday that the proposal was making savings and loan depositors nervous and had led some to withdraw their money.
Since Wednesday, Wall said, ″There have been cases where they say, ‘I don’t like what I heard on TV, I’m taking my money out.’ ″
Depositor reaction to the proposal had not placed any savings and loans in jeopardy, he said.
Financial industry officials in Dallas, as well as their customers, indicated there have been few account closings as a result of the deposit tax trial balloon.
″We’ve had a few questions to it,″ said Ruth Lack, director of corporate communications for First Gibraltar, FSB in Houston. ″We have not had any action on it. Most of our depositors realize that this is nothing more than a trial at this point.″
George Barclay, president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, stated there has been ″no measurable increase in deposit withdrawals″ due to publicity about the proposed fee, and credited consumer confidence that the government would uphold the safety of their deposits.
An official with Southwest Savings Association who refused to identify herself said she has sensed ″quite a bit of concern″ among customers.
″People don’t want to have to pay to save their money,″ she said. ″If I had a savings account and had to pay, I’d close it, I’m sorry.″
Some customers said they probably would withdraw their money if the deposit fee was implemented.
″I have a lot of money in savings and loans, and I hate that proposal,″ said one customer at the Southwest Savings downtown branch.
″Right now, I’m reading George Bush’s lips. I hope they drop it. If they don’t, it’s going to hurt savings and loans - a lot,″ said the customer, who declined to give his name.
Nevertheless, the customer said he would wait and see if the fee was imposed before moving his money.
Several customers said they had not heard about the fee.
Only one of eight Dallas savings and loans branches contacted Friday reported a withdrawal, although the majority declined to comment.
One Dallas man promptly withdrew his money from Sunbelt Savings after hearing of the fee proposal, said account representative Tim Palla.
″He came in with a smile on his face and said, ’I can’t handle this any more. It isn’t you people, it’s the government,″ Palla said.
Palla said that was the only withdrawal he knew of. Other customers have called with questions about the proposed fee, he said.