Carver Federal Savings on the Brink
(Crain’s) — The parent of Carver Federal Savings Bank holds its annual stockholders meeting April 4 at The Studio Museum in Harlem, near the bank’s 125th Street headquarters. It could be the last. Time may be running out for Carver, the nation’s largest bank founded and run by African-Americans and an integral part of the city for 63 years. Staggering under a load of delinquent real estate loans, the bank is under orders from the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision to raise $20 million in fresh capital by the end of this month. That’s a steep climb for a bank that at best posts annual profits of $5 million. Yet if Carver can’t raise the cash, regulators can either seize the institution and sell it to another bank, or dissolve it.
Longtime Chief Executive Deborah Wright has pulled Carver back from the brink before and has many high-level business and political connections who could help the bank get the needed funds. But backers would be buying into an institution where 12.3% of the loan portfolio is more than 90 days delinquent. The industry average is 4.9%, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. In addition, although $74 million of its loans are well overdue, Carver has just $21 million in reserves to cover loan losses. “It’s worrisome,” said William Michael Cunningham, founder of Creative Investment Research, a Washington firm that tracks minority-operated banks. “Carver faces real challenges, because the impact of the financial crisis has hit the communities that it serves especially hard.”