At a time of relative affluence in the farming industry, the FDIC has issued a warning on a need for monitoring agricultural credits. FIL-39-2014 (July 16, 2014) suggests that banking institutions of all sizes should carefully consider a recent, negative projection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While current market conditions are good, the projection suggests there will be a slowdown in the growth of the farming and livestock sectors and that agriculture may be affected by adverse weather and declining land values, among other factors.
The guidance suggests that financial institutions should work carefully with agricultural borrowers when they experience financial difficulties. The guidance states that the FDIC’s supervisory expectations previously expressed in a 2010 financial institution letter continue (although the letter is rescinded in light of the current letter).
Cash flow analysis, secondary repayment sources and collateral support levels must be considered in order to properly analyze agricultural credits, according to the guidance.
The guidance notes that smaller farms and ranches rely on the personal wealth and resources of the owners, including off-farm wages. A universal review of the financial strength of the credit is required.
The guidance also notes workout strategies must be specifically tailored for agricultural credits in light of experience in the 1980’s with depreciating farm land values, among other factors. The guidance suggests that properly restructured loans to farming operations with a documented ability to repay under the modified terms will not be subject to adverse classification because the value of the underlying collateral …
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Last April, a trade association for bank directors, the American Association of Bank Directors reported the results of a survey designed to measure the impact of concerns about personal liability on the decision of bank board members to resign and by individuals to turn down board seats on banking organizations.
One of the key concerns, the survey highlighted, is the possibility of an FDIC lawsuit against the directors if a bank failure occurs. The fear was bank directors would be liable for decisions made as directors notwithstanding what is commonly referred to as the business judgment rule. Generally, the business judgment rule shields corporate directors, including bank directors, from liability when board decisions result in losses to the corporation or to shareholders.
The AABD mentioned in particular a then pending lawsuit in Georgia arising out of FDIC claims related to the failure of Buckhead Bank. These claims against the directors sounded in simple negligence regarding the making of loans. And the directors had asserted the business judgment as a defense.
A few days ago the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on the matter and the decision is worth a review by bank directors and managers even though they don’t do business in Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court decision elegantly summarizes the business judgment rule including its history and common law origins. So the opinion is a useful “read” for bankers everywhere because the development of local jurisprudence in most states is likely similar to the process described in the opinion.
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Expansion of Banking: What happens when First National Bank is no longer First?
Ask any community banker and she will tell you that bank name disputes are on the rise. The Third Federal Circuit Court of Appeals attributes the rise of bank name disputes to “an outgrowth of aggressive and expansionist banking flowing from the Congressional liberalization… of national banking laws.” Citizens Financial Group, Inc., v. Citizens Nat’l Bank, 383 F.3d 110, 112 (3rd Cir. 2004). This case is one of many examples of disputes arising between two financial institutions, in similar geographic regions, operating under identical or a confusingly similar name (e.g., Citizens National Bank of Evans City and Citizens Financial Group, Inc.).
Today we are accustomed to large banks having developed into multinational corporations, such as JP Morgan Chase or Wells Fargo, but this growth occurred in most cases only in the late twentieth century. But the banking industry began with banks being purely local entities, the sole bank within a town or a smaller city as opposed to multi-branch banks within the same metropolis or state. For many banking organizations, this is still true. Within these towns, the use of names like First National Bank or Columbus City Bank were distinctive enough because that was the only show in town and everyone knew where they were banking. It was unlikely that another First National Bank two towns over would confuse or mislead consumers. The National Bank Act fostered the practice of bank names being rather undistinctive …
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