BANKING: Nagging Questions of Stability

It was a swift, smooth salvage job. Perilously short of cash needed to pay off creditors, Long Island's Security National Bank (assets: $1.8 billion) was close to collapse. Over a hectic weekend in Washington, Comptroller of the Currency James E. Smith declared a formal emergency under the banking laws, then arranged for Justice Department and Federal Reserve Board approval of a quick rescue. When Security National customers showed up at the bank's 86 branches on the following Monday, they were greeted with signs announcing, WE'RE NOW CHEMICAL BANK.

New York's Chemical, the country's seventh biggest bank, paid the defunct Security...

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