Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2014

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BANK FAILURE:

Deaf group planning convention is out $170,000

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Sam Morris

Bill Moran, co-chairman of the local committee planning the 2009 Deaf Seniors of America convention, tells the group about Wednesday’s meeting with the FDIC. Officials could only guarantee that $100,000 of $270,000 the group had raised was federally insured.

The money wasn’t raised with a few lavish or large events.

No, the Las Vegas County Association of the Deaf spent the past 3 1/2 years hosting picnics and pot roast dinners, collecting a few hundred dollars at a time.

With the collapse of Silver State Bank last week, more than $170,000 of that money is lost.

The association had four certificates of deposit at the bank totaling $250,000, plus about $20,000 in interest. But the account is now worth only $100,000 because that’s the maximum amount insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The local organization had been collecting money for the 10th biennial Deaf Seniors of America convention, a 10-day gathering of about 3,000 deaf people to socialize and discuss innovations that could improve their lives. More than 2,000 have signed up for the June event, which the Las Vegas group is hosting, and their registration fees were also kept at the bank.

“The money belongs to the deaf community, in our minds. It doesn’t belong to us,” Cecilia Rosen, co-chairwoman of the local convention planning committee, said through a sign language interpreter.

When Bill Moran, the committee’s co-chairman, heard the news about the bank, he couldn’t sleep that night.

Swayed by the advertisements touting a higher interest rate than the group was earning at Wells Fargo, the committee had switched its money to Silver State. Moran said through the interpreter that with each new CD account members opened, they asked whether the money was insured and made sure no CD had more than $100,000. Other funds were put in a different bank.

They thought they had done everything right.

But the group gets only a total of $100,000 insured, not that amount for each CD.

The association is one of 500 account holders with uninsured money at the bank, $20 million in all. Henderson-based Silver State Bank is the second bank in the Las Vegas Valley to collapse in the past two months — First National Bank of Nevada was taken over July 25 — and one of 11 federally insured banks nationwide to fail this year.

When deaf association leaders first found out, they pleaded for someone at the FDIC to see what could be done, their interpreter, Jerry Bass, said.

Convention planners met with FDIC officials Wednesday afternoon. Drinks and cookies were offered but not much else.

The group will have to wait until the bank’s assets are sold. And even then, depositors with uninsured funds get only about 72 cents on the dollar back on average, and the process takes years.

“We have an event in June 2009,” Moran said. “We don’t have that kind of time.”

The association might have to borrow money to fulfill its contract with Paris Las Vegas for the convention.

“I have a great deal of fear for us because of that obligation,” Moran said.

There are no plans to cancel the convention, he said.

But because of the bank failure, the group will not make any profit on the convention — money that was going to be donated to build a deaf community center in Las Vegas.

“We’re going to try our best to move on,” Moran said. “That’s all we can do.”

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