The Savings and Loan Crisis: A Recordkeeping Challenge

Article excerpt

As an increasing number of savings and loan institutions headed toward insolvency in the 1980s, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was asked to lead a joint effort to evaluate and oversee the operations of insolvent savings and loan associations. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Comptroller of the Currency also participated in the effort.

In August 1989, Congress passed the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), establishing the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC or Corporation). The mission of the Corporation was to manage and resolve failed savings institutions. The scope of the work of the Corporation in the savings and loan industry is unprecedented. As of spring 1992, the Office of Thrift Supervision had assigned 699 institutions to the Corporation, of which 651 had been either closed or sold. The Corporation had received over $250 billion from asset sales and collections, had a remaining inventory of approximately $114 billion in assets to be sold, and had protected nearly 22 million deposit accounts worth $212 billion.

As with other corporate programs, the records management effort was developed very quickly to deal with very large problems. Two simple statistics will provide some indication of the scope of the program. First, the Corporation has taken custody of nearly 1,800,000 cubic feet of records from failed savings and loan institutions; second, the corporate records management staff in field offices responds to over 130,000 requests for institution records each year. By way of comparison, the total volume of general program and administrative records stored by federal records centers operated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for all federal agencies is approximately 12,500,000 cubic feet. Each year, NARA's records centers respond to 2,500,000 reference requests, once again from all federal agencies, to these general records. Indeed, no federal agency in recent history has been forced to mount a records management effort approaching the scope of the program currently underway in the RTC.

ORGANIZATION AND SPECIAL MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

The organization of the records management program in the Corporation follows the traditional framework established within the federal government. A small headquarters staff, the Records Management Section (RMS), provides the full range of records services to Corporate headquarters offices, and develops, coordinates, and issues policy guidance to corporate field offices. The Section consists of the corporate records manager, four management analysts, two management assistants, and a single clerk-typist. Two management analysts are devoted to field records issues while the remaining two analysts focus on directives management and other headquarters records areas. Initially, RMS was organized under the Office of the Executive Secretary, but in 1992 the unit was reorganized under the Office of Administrative Services in the Corporation's Department of Administration.

Each corporate field office has its own records management unit. While these units may employ as many as 15 staff members, the actual size in the fifteen sites varies depending on the number of savings and loans assigned to the site and the range of records management services provided. Many field units are divided into two groups. One is assigned to corporate records and central file rooms while a second component operates records centers established in local warehouses. Nationwide, the Corporation has approximately 140 full-time staff members providing records management services in its field locations. The Corporation contracts with private records management firms to handle sudden increases in work.

This rather traditional records management organization has been challenged by a number of special management problems stemming from the uniqueness of the Corporation and its Congressional mandate. …