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Regulators seize Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union

Regulators on Friday seized control of Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union in Miramar, the biggest federal takeover of a credit union this year.

The institution, the third-largest credit union in Florida, has six branches in the Tampa Bay area.

The National Credit Union Administration, named the conservator of Eastern, has appointed officials from the Space Coast Credit Union of Melbourne to temporarily manage the union's day-to-day operations.

John McKechnie, a spokesman with the National Credit Union Administration, said Eastern may merge with another institution or may be liquidated.

"Frankly, we did this to preserve the assets for the members because of the declining financial condition," he said.

Eastern Financial has $1.6 billion in assets and more than 200,000 members in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties and the Jacksonville area. Bay area branches are in Carrollwood, Town 'N Country, Brandon, St. Petersburg, Oldsmar and Countryside.

The credit union was created by members of the now-defunct Eastern Airlines. It was chartered in 1937, just three years after Congress created the framework for credit unions to operate, and grew to 30 locations statewide, becoming one of the top 35 credit unions in the country. In Florida, it only ranks behind Tampa-based Suncoast Schools and Jacksonville-based VyStar.

Over the past year, the institution has been hit hard by bad real estate loans and securities investments.

The depth of its woes has been foreshadowed for months. Ratings agency Bauer Financial Inc. since last year has given Eastern a "zero-star" rating, signifying deep distress.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

What happens now?

Eastern Financial Florida Credit union accounts are federally insured to at least $250,000. While the institution is in conservatorship, service is continuing uninterrupted with normal business hours. Members are free to make deposits, access funds, make loan payments and use share drafts.

Whom do I call?

Members with questions are urged to contact the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund call center toll-free at 1-800-755-1030 (Press 1), during normal business hours Monday through Friday.

How does my credit union rank?

Learn how your bank or credit union performed in the fourth quarter with our star-ratings database at money.tampabay.com.

Regulators seize Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union 04/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 25, 2009 11:30am]
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