Just like in the uplifting Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life, which starred Jimmy Stewart as a lovable grifter who threatened suicide in an attempt to solicit money from gullible townsfolk, the heartless bank regulators swooped in and closed Reston-based Greater Atlantic Bank on Friday night.
Regulators closed Reston-based Greater Atlantic Bank on Friday night, the first bank failure in Virginia since 1993.George Bailey was unavailable for comment.
The failure does not affect the bank's customers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. sold the bank's deposits and virtually all of its assets to Sonabank, based in McLean, which will reopen Greater Atlantic's four branches on their normal schedules. Customers can continue to write checks and withdraw money from ATMs over the weekend.
Greater Atlantic was sunk by rising losses on commercial real estate loans, both its own and those it purchased from other banks, according to FDIC spokesman David Barr.
Greater Atlantic was founded as the Greater Baltimore Savings and Loan Association in 1887. It moved to Reston in 1999.
The company's chairman, Charles Calomiris, is a well-known finance professor at the Columbia Business School. Calomiris, also a major shareholder, inherited the role from his father.
The bank's failure was not a surprise. In April 2008, its regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, ordered Greater Atlantic to improve its operations. In May of this year, the agency ordered the bank to raise more capital or face seizure. The company announced in June that it would be sold to a group of private investors, but the deal was never consummated.
Sonabank agreed to take ownership of virtually that entire portfolio, but the FDIC will share in any losses.
The bank's slogan now sounds like an elegy. It read, "Nice doing business with you."