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Table of Contents

Lead Story

Diversification versus specialization: Which is better?

News

Industry Update

NetBank bubble bursts over mortgage loans

Feds propose rules on Internet gambling

Merchants give Congress their take on interchange

Kinks at the QSR drive-thru

Is the PCI DSS pie in the sky? The NRF's Hogan wants to know

Ontario nixes 'use it or lose it' gift cards

Features

The skinny on trade associations

U.K. banks push contactless tech, despite consumer demand for cash

Ron Delnevo
Bank Machine Ltd.

Views

The assault on interchange widens

Patti Murphy
The Takoma Group

Coping with the credit crunch

Biff Matthews
CardWare International

Clich├ęs, monsters and a dog named Spot

Education

Street SmartsSM:
Next stop: Tradeshows

Dee Karawadra
Impact PaySystem

Using e-mail effectively: Managing lists

Nancy Drexler
Marketing Moguls

Don't let security slide

Steve Schwimmer
Renaissance Merchant Services

PCI DSS implementation: A concise review

Robert Heinrich
Alpha Card Services Inc.

Dam spam with secure e-mail

Michael Petitti
Trustwave

The next ISO widow could be yours

Adam Atlas
Attorney at Law

Company Profile

Comstar Interactive

New Products

PIN protection for online purchases

PIN Debit Service
ATM Direct

A payment plug-in quick as a hare

Skipjack Payment Plug-in
Skipjack Financial Services, Inc.

Inspiration

Optimism is an inside job

Miscellaneous

POScript

Departments

Forum

Resource Guide

Datebook

Skyscraper Ad

The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 22, 2007  •  Issue 07:10:02

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NetBank bubble bursts over mortgage loans

N etBank is now but a memory, a mere postscript to the "Internet bubble." However, NetBank's demise was due to mortgage lending practices, not the Internet.

The failure itself shouldn't matter much to the acquiring community. But the implication is that mortgage loans and equity lines, considered by many to be the largest funding source for small businesses in recent years, may be in jeopardy.

NetBank, which had maintained offices in Alpharetta, Ga., and reported assets of $2.5 billion in June 2007, represents the largest bank failure in the last 14 years, when the so-called savings and loan crisis ended.

A branchless bank that only did business over the Web, NetBank was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) on Sept. 28, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) was appointed receiver. The FDIC then transferred the bulk of NetBank's deposits to ING Bank FSB, an Internet bank owned by a U.S. subsidiary of the Dutch banking group ING Groep NV.

Regulators said NetBank had been on their radar for at least a year. "NetBank sustained significant losses in 2006 primarily due to early payment defaults on loans sold, weak underwriting, poor documentation, a lack of proper controls and failed business strategies," according to an OTS statement.

An agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, OTS regulates the nation's thrift industry, which consists of federally insured financial institutions that specialize in mortgage lending.

Although NetBank did business exclusively via the Internet, it was chartered as a thrift institution, and its loan portfolio was chock full of mortgage instruments. The bank had tried to sell off its nonperforming assets, but ran out of time.

"[I]t became clear that high operating expenses combined with continuing losses were jeopardizing the institution's viability," OTS stated.

When a financial institution is shut down by regulators, customers with deposit accounts totaling $100,000 or less are made whole. In the case of NetBank, this was accomplished through the transfer of accounts to ING; everyone with accounts at NetBank on Sept. 28 woke up the next day as ING Bank account holders.

NetBank customers with deposits exceeding $100,000 received 50% of the amounts over $100,000, which was immediately accessible through accounts at ING, the FDIC said. Unfortunately, they'll need to line up behind other creditors in bankruptcy court if they want a shot at the rest of their money.

There were about 1,500 accounts at NetBank with uninsured deposits totaling $109 million when the bank was shuttered, according to the FDIC. For ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) NetBank's closing has not been disruptive.

"The sky might be falling for NetBank employees and management, but I don't think [that is true] for ISOs or MLSs," Michael Nardy, Chief Executive Officer, Electronic Payments Inc., wrote in a recent exchange about the issue on GS Online's MLS Forum.

Jared Isaacman, CEO, United Bank Card Inc., agreed. "Most processors and ISOs/MSPs are sponsored by strong and very financially stable banks," he noted. "The concern is usually not the bank failing. ... It's usually the ISO/MSP or processor going out of business that can threaten an ISO or MLS's residuals."

However, the failure of NetBank appears to be symptomatic of deteriorating economic conditions and should be heeded as a warning sign by the feet on the street.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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