Last week, we learned that California-based IndyMac was seized by the FDIC. In the aftermath, customers made a run on the bank, pulling more than $1.3 billion from the vault. Alongside the fallout of Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE ) and Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM ) , this news has led to widespread media speculation about the next bank to fail.
Five Foolish analysts give their take on the affair, and what investors can learn from it.
Todd Wenning: I think Senator Schumer's tactless comments unfairly pulled the rug out from under IndyMac, which led to a full-out run on the bank. Based on the amount of insider buying (yes, buying) that occurred from March 2007 to May 2008, I can't imagine hope was completely lost within the company. Sure, some of it might have been blind optimism, but I have a hard time believing that 14 different insiders would have added nearly 700,000 shares to their personal holdings if they lacked conviction.
After Schumer made his comments, IndyMac didn't stand a chance of raising capital and getting its feet back on the ground. Now the media's turned this story into a modern-day witch hunt, wondering which bank will topple next. That's unfortunate, because not all banks should be held over the fire. We've seen some positive news recently, with Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) and US Bancorp (NYSE: USB ) announcing dividend increases, and better-than-expected results at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) .
Dan Caplinger: To me, the most surprising thing about the whole IndyMac affair was hearing about the number of customers who could end up losing money because their accounts had more than the $100,000 FDIC deposit insurance limit. No matter how good IndyMac's rates were, and no matter how unlikely it may have seemed that a bank that large could go under, there's just no reason for savers to take the risk. All they had to do was open accounts at other banks. Also, I bet that many customers who will end up with losses could have prevented them even more easily, by doing things like naming different family members as joint accountholders or pay-on-death beneficiaries, which allows you to get several $100,000 bites at the FDIC apple.
Anand Chokkavelu: Bill Ackman, the Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund manager, seems to be setting himself up for a sweetheart deal. He's shorting shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and then proposing a plan to the government that would take those shares to zero. This is reminiscent of David Einhorn shorting Lehman (NYSE: LEH ) , then talking bad about it in the cafeteria at lunchtime.
What does this have to do with IndyMac? In this period of financial pessimism, bank runs and panic stock-selling can be triggered by mere words. Bear Stearns collapsed because whispers of liquidity concerns led to actual liquidity problems. IndyMac's fall got a big push from Senator Schumer's words. That means it's in the best interest of shorts like Ackman and Einhorn to publicly try their cases. To counter these words, you'll hear the government and company officials say anything they can to instill confidence in troubled entities. In banking as in high school, perception is reality.
Brian Orelli: Living in IndyMac country, I got a firsthand look at the long lines of people waiting to get their cash out of the bank. I had a hard time feeling sorry for those poor souls sweating in the hot sun. First, if they've got more than $100,000 FDIC insured sitting in a bank, they're either a lot richer than me, or they need a serious lesson in asset allocation. (More likely both -- this was in La Jolla, after all.) Second, how hard is it to spread your wealth around to more than one bank? If you want to keep your money in an ultra-safe place, make sure you play by the rules.
Alyce Lomax: IndyMac specialized in Alt-A loans, also known as "liar loans." Lots of banks got involved in those "exotic" loans, which often didn't require proof of income or assets, and now many are defaulting and at risk. And now there's a "crisis of confidence" that can easily bubble into a panic for companies like IndyMac? I'm shocked. Perhaps this whole mess gives an exotic new spin to the term "confidence game"?
And with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the FDIC is freezing foreclosures at IndyMac, I'm wondering what such moves say to those of us who didn't secure no-doc or exotic loans to buy real estate we couldn't afford? Just how badly will fiscally responsible Americans get shafted to soften the blow for the mind-boggling number of selfish scoundrels and short-sighted suckers who got us into this mess? So much for fiscal housecleaning.
What are your thoughts on the IndyMac affair? Is it an utter disaster? Will another bank fall? Chime in below with a comment.