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The FDIC recently put forth a policy reiterating strong support for workouts for distressed asset owners. How strong? The FDIC all but gives financial institutions a passing grade even if borrowers default, just so long as they tried really hard. “Financial institutions that implement prudent loan workout arrangements after performing comprehensive reviews of borrowers’ financial conditions will not be subject to criticism for engaging in these efforts, even if the restructured loans have weaknesses that result in adverse credit classifications,” is how the FDIC puts it.The agency’s approach to distressed assets has also taken a subtle but distinct shift from several months ago. In September it closed its first distressed deal – but not in the anticipated open auction format. Rather it supported the purchase by Residential Credit Solutions of Fort Worth of a $1.3 billion loan portfolio from the Franklin Bank in Houston. It was, American Banker observed at the time, a good way for the FDIC to purge toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets.Not that any of this should come as a surprise: the FDIC like the rest of the government and private sector is still feeling its way through this crisis. If policies don’t always mesh – like giving questionable borrowers an extension and then finding a way to sell off the assets if it comes to that – then so be it. One thing is for sure, the post mortem on these crisis policies will be interesting to follow.

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