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Florida Bank agrees to regulatory oversight

Federal regulators are reining in operations at financially troubled Florida Bank Group.

Florida Bank has $840 million in assets and operates eight branches in the bay area. It has 60 days to develop plans to strengthen board oversight, tighten and improve its lending requirements and strengthen credit-risk management practices.

The bank has agreed not to take on any additional debt, pay dividends or take out other capital for payments without approval of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It has 10 days from the date of the agreement to either charge off or collect any assets that regulators have classified as a loss.

Florida Bank CEO Susan Martinez signed the agreement on March 1. Martinez could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Founded in 1985, Florida Bank was originally known as the Bank of St. Petersburg. It expanded throughout Tampa Bay as well as establishing locations in Sarasota, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. As of Dec. 31, it had 14 branches, holding $714 million in deposits.

In recent months, Bauer Financial, a bank ratings agency based in Coral Gables, has noted growing concerns over Florida Bank's financial health. In less than a year, the institution has steadily slipped from a three-star Bauer ranking (indicating "adequate") to a one-star rating (indicating "troubled") as of the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Last year, Florida Bank posted a $42 million net loss.

Regulatory oversight is viewed as one of the final steps to ward off a bank failure.

In 2010, more banks failed in the United States than in any year since 1992's savings-and-loan crisis. Florida led the way, accounting for 29 of the 157 FDIC-insured banks that failed. So far this year, two more Florida banks have failed.

Florida Bank agrees to regulatory oversight 03/08/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 12:53pm]
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