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Community Bancshares takes federal funds

Other small Mississippi banks choose again not to take part in TARP

Washington is considering another round of bailouts for banks that were too small or risky for the first disbursement of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds in fall 2008. But “bailout” might not be the right word, since some banks receiving these funds are in good financial standing.

Qualifications are vague, but these new funds could go to banks with less than $5 million on their books that were too weak to qualify for money the first time around. Small banks have until Nov. 21 to apply to get TARP funds.

Many banks currently receiving funds don’t need them. Banks that are in good financial standing, showing positive earnings and the ability to raise money on their own, have received funds.

“The banks that are getting the TARP money now really don’t need it,” said Steve Verdier, who heads government affairs for the trade group Independent Community Bankers of America, in a recent Time article. Verdier’s group favors extending TARP funds to banks that are struggling but not about to fail.

John Pittman, president of Planter’s Bank in Greenwood, is puzzled by the possibility of a new round of bailouts. Pittman thought all banks had been originally eligible for TARP money.

“I’m not sure I understand where (Barney) Frank’s coming from. I’m not sure if he’s suggesting there were some banks that should get (TARP money) that didn’t. I didn’t know it was a size issue,” Pittman said. Pittman wonders if they are trying to help banks that fell through the cracks the first time around.

Planter’s, which had locations in the Mississippi Delta, has $537 million in total assets and is happy not to be in a position to need government funds.

“We’re doing well and continuing to do well,” Pittman said. “We certainly have money to loan and certainly want to bring this economy back. It’s a time of uncertainty.”

Three Mississippi-based banks — BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Hancock Holding Company of Gulfport and Citizens Holding Company of Philadelphia — made their decisions public not to accept TARP funds in fall 2008, taking the chance to tout their financial stability.

Some Mississippi banks who have accepted TARP funds are: Regions Bank; Trustmark Corporation of Jackson; Sun Trust; First M&F in Kosciusko; BankFirst Capital Corporation of Macon; Banc Plus Corporation in Ridgeland; and, Lafayette Bancorp, the holding company for Oxford University Bank.

Community Bancshares of Mississippi received $52 million of $75 million federal funds released this month, which the company said will give it opportunities and keep it up to speed with other banks who have accepted government funds.

“Community Bank’s recent decision to participate in the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program is one based on opportunity, not necessity. Community Bank is already a well-capitalized bank without these funds. However, the relatively low-cost capital available in the program will provide opportunities for Community Bank to grow our existing market base as well as be better positioned for any potential acquisition opportunities that may become available given the current banking environment,” said Freddie Bagley, president and CEO of Community Bancshares in a statement.

“Since many of our competitors in Mississippi – both larger regional banks and smaller local banks – announced their participation in the program earlier this year, Community Bank believes it would put our company at a competitive disadvantage not to participate ourselves,” Bagley said.



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