A third of banks in Florida need fixing, federal regulators say

Eighty-eight banks and thrifts based in Florida now operate under "severe enforcement actions" demanded by regulators.

The high concentration, a whopping 30 percent, of the state's banks struggling under regulatory intervention reflects the deeper woes of the state economy, the sheer number of banks with headquarters here and, frankly, the banking bubble in Florida.

Too many Florida banks were licensed by regulators during the boom times. That's why 11 Florida banks have failed so far this year; 56 have been closed or sold since 2008.

Nationwide, about 10 percent or 1,042 of the country's banks and thrifts are operating under similar enforcement agreements. It's not just smaller banks that are affected. Big banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and SunTrust are among the group.

In Florida, eight of the 88 are in the Tampa Bay area.

Severe enforcement actions are legal steps taken by regulators that can take the form of cease and desist orders (stop operating your bank in this way) or capital directives (raise more money to boost your financial cushion).

Florida joins five other states — California, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota and Georgia — that have more than 50 banks and thrifts under severe enforcement actions.

An enforcement action does not mean a bank is doomed. It does mean the bank must fix its problems before the regulatory action is lifted. That's hard to do in a tough economy. Some of these Florida banks are already "zero star" (weakest) rated banks by Bauer Financial, but some still have healthier "1-star" or even "2-star" status. (A "5-star" rating is tops.)

Among the 88, here are eight Tampa Bay institutions under enforcement actions:

Century Bank of Florida, Tampa: In 2009, Century was ordered to improve loan underwriting and credit risk management. Star rating: 2.

First Home Bank, Seminole: In 2010, a consent order criticized the depth of its directors and management and demanded more capital be raised. Star rating: Zero.

Florida Bank, Tampa: Ordered in early 2011 to strengthen board oversight, improve lending requirements and strengthen credit-risk management practices. Star rating: Zero.

Heritage Bank of Florida, Lutz: In late 2010, ordered to strengthen its board, management and how it records questionable loans. Star rating: Zero.

Old Harbor Bank, Clearwater: In 2010, ordered to raise capital. A deal to sell the bank to Lakewood Ranch's Community Bank & Co. fell through last month. Star rating: Zero.

Palm Bank, Tampa: In 2011, oversight was raised to a consent order from a "memo of understanding" to set aside more funds against dud loans and raise more capital. Star rating: 2.

Pilot Bank, Tampa: A 2010 agreement seeks to improve loan underwriting, credit risk management and capital standards. Star rating: 2.

Southern Commerce Bank, Tampa: In 2010, ordered to raise capital and stop unsafe lending practices. Star rating: 1.

Will some of Florida's 88 weaker banks survive? Sure. But in these times, plenty of them won't make the cut.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

A third of banks in Florida need fixing, federal regulators say 10/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 11:54pm]

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