Eden THE DRIVE WEST to Eden is supposed to be a symbolic venture. Small notices in the press tell how the closing of the Eden State Bank on July 31, the thirteenth bank closing of the year in Texas, ties the record for the number of bank closings in one state in one year’s time. Perhaps there is something in Eden to symbolize the decline of the Texas economy. Perhaps something can be plucked from this “Garden of Texas” to be shared as a symbol of our fall. These ideas always sound better before the car is packed. After three hours of driving, the freshness of the ripe imagination gives in to the mesquite and the prickly pears and the rugged expansive handsomeness of the West Texas land. Buzzards now claim the heights, fed by the carrion specimens of creation which the road unfailingly sacrifices to their gliding glory. What will one find signified in Eden population 1294, public water supply approved, hometown of Gen. Earl Rudder, where the Hard Times Restaurant has been closed? What will one be able to make of the signs offered by these hot and silent streets? The storefront library happens to be the first stop. Here the Green Thumb volunteer, ah yes, explains how the street was fairly well crowded with parked cars on the evening the bank closed. You could tell something was up. Of course there had been rumors before. “After all, everybody knows your business in a small town. That’s a fact.” During lunchtime last week a couple of FDIC folks a man and a woman spent an hour browsing through the mysteries before resuming their investigations across the street. They were real nice and real complimentary towards the collection. Inside the bank, laborers cash their Friday paychecks. Two loan officers \(both women, one feels compelled to like business as usual. After all, the bank was only closed for a few hours one Thursday afternoon. The very next Greg Moses is an Observer contributing writer who lives in Austin. morning at 9 a.m. the new president was holding a reception with refreshments and reassurances that the new ownership was pro-Eden for sure. In this bank the black and gold FDIC decal takes on a lustre one has never before noticed. “We do a good job, and we perform a necessary public service,” says Sherry Thiels, the FDIC loan workout specialist in charge of The Eden Bank’s affairs \(a capitalized “The” distinguishes the desk in a quiet out-of-the-way office and explains how the closing went down. The afternoon of July 29 she was informed that she would be leaving the Dallas office for a month. The next afternoon she drove to San Angelo and checked into a motel along with about thirty-five other FDIC employees. On the morning of the 31st, there were meetings in which the FDIC team learned for the first time that the action would take place in Eden. They sat tight until 3 p.m. when FDIC Closing Supervisor Frank J. Norris called from the bank to confirm its closing. About an hour later a caravan of FDIC employees arrived at the bank’s front door to begin a thorough inventory of the bank and its books. Meanwhile, other officers from the FDIC accepted a bid and sold the bank to Ben Stribling of San Angelo. Banker Larry Hearn was in Houston looking for work on the 30th when Stribling contacted him by telephone from Dallas. Stribling was working up a bid to assume a soon-to-be-closed bank. Would Hearn be interested? Hearn said yes. At 11 p.m. on July 31st, as the FDIC team was closing its first day of inventory, Hearn and Stribling were meeting for the first time at the San Angelo Holiday Inn. The next morning the bank was ready to do business. FDIC operations continued during business hours with the addition of space at City Hall. Runners took information from the bank to FDIC computers at City Hall, moving as best they could through the crowded reception in the lobby. FDIC specialists worked long days during the weekend. By the following Wednesday, only six remained, with Thiels in charge. During August, Thiels meets with customers whose loans have been assumed by the FDIC. Meanwhile, Hearn has the option to buy back these loans, or transfer others to the FDIC. Both Thiels and Hearn have seen the other side of bank closings. Thiels joined the FDIC after a banking job of seven years ended in a failure. Hearn, a former state examiner, locked the doors of a bank he was running in 1984 when he discovered its insolvency. The following Monday he went to work as president of the Permian Bank in Odessa. After a two-year struggle, that bank closed its doors July 18. That’s what sent Hearn to Houston looking for work. At night Hearn reviews the books in an apartment above the bank. He has looked at half the loans by mid-August, and he says policies and procedures must be changed. If people have the impression that The Eden State Bank is reopened for business as usual, then Hearn says they are mistaken. At the time of its closing the Eden State Bank had assets of $13.5 million. The bank reported 1300 customers with 1600 accounts. Of nearly $7 million in commercial loans, the FDIC assumed nearly half. Of nearly $1 million in installment loans, the FDIC took about $100,000. Of loan participations those loans assumed from other banks the FDIC took all $360,000. Hearn says those participations were primarily affiliated with the Home State Bank of Rochester, Texas, which closed its doors earlier this year. The relationship between the banks of Eden and Rochester will remain of some interest during the coming months. As it turns out, the search for symbols in Eden has uncovered what appears to be a very rotten apple. Three civil suits filed during the summer at the Concho County courthouse in Paint Rock indicate the lines of inquiry which have attracted FBI interest. Although the FBI has an official policy which prevents its agents from confirming or denying to the press the activities of its investigations, at least one agent from the Abilene office has been asking a lot of questions around Eden lately. Those close to the investigation say it will last for another month or two. Of the three lawsuits, two were filed by the Eden State Bank against CPA Borden Duffel of Abilene and Donald W. Johnson, the bank’s former president and part-owner. On August 15, the day the Observer visited Eden, the third suit was filed by Johnson’s former partners in ownership. They are seeking $1.6 million in damages from Johnson and Duffel. Death of a Small-Town Bank By Greg Moses 12 SEPTEMBER 26, 1986
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