Webster Bank pledges foreclosure moratorium and $250K donation

Webster Bank is placing a 90-day foreclosure moratorium on Webster residential loans along with other disaster relief measures that support consumers, businesses and nonprofits facing financial hardship due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

Webster will also donate $250,000 to nonprofit organizations throughout the bank’s footprint to help provide “urgent services to the public.” The funds will go to various emergency assistance organizations, Webster said,including Feeding America Food Banks, the American Red Cross’ COVID-19 fund and blood services.

In addition to the90-day foreclosure moratorium, the $30.4 billion-asset company said, Webster’s bankers will provide several flexible service options to alleviate financial pressures to consumers – effective immediately.

Webster has taken a host of emergency response measures. Such as, increased, individualized daily Webster debit card spending limits; Waived penalties for early CD withdrawals up to $25,000; Increased, individualized remote deposit limits; Need-based payment deferrals on mortgages, home equity or personal loans, and small business loans; Expedited SBA application process for qualified businesses impacted directly or indirectly by the pandemic, including vendors or other external business partners.

As a precaution, the 85-year old Waterbury, Conn. based bank called on all Webster customers to bank remotely or access the customer support center available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Webster recognizes “the dramatic steps we all must take” to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, said John R. Ciulla, Webster President and Chief Executive Officer.

Three Banks suspend share repurchases to curb COVID-19 impact

In an effort to curb the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Citizens Financial Group, Inc., Fifth Third Bancorp, and Regions Financial Corporation announced the suspension of their company stock repurchase programs through June 2020.

The suspensions will not affect the dividend policy or dividend payments to shareholders. Also, all three banks plan to reinstate share repurchase programs as soon as circumstances change.

Providence, R.I. based Citizens will temporarily suspend its stock repurchase program “to support the efforts of the Federal Reserve and other banks to moderate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a company release, “by making additional capital and liquidity available” to customers, corporations, small businesses and individuals.

As of December 31, 2019 Citizens had $165.7 billion in assets. The bank said it “consistently passed” the required Federal Reserve Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) economic and financial stress tests. 

Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Bancorp joined the largest U.S. banks in temporarily suspending share repurchases “to provide maximum support to individuals, businesses, and the broader economy through lending and other important services.”

Fifth Third stopped executing share repurchases in the first quarter of 2020, it said in a release. In total, it has approximately $830 million in repurchase capacity under CCAR 2019. As of December 31, 2019, Fifth Third had $169 billion in assets and $413 billion in assets under care, of which $49 billion for individuals, corporations and not-for-profit organizations.

Regions Financial Corporation of Birmingham, Ala., also suspended its share buyback program through June 2020.

With $126 billion in assets, Regions serves customers across the South, Midwest and Texas through its subsidiary Regions Bank. Regions passed the CCAR economic and financial stress tests demonstrating “the capability to support lending and other necessary financial services during a significant economic downturn,” the company said.

Is Warren Buffett saving billions for bargain-priced single-family houses?

A theory has been circulating among the investor set as of late. It suggests Warren Buffet, arguably the most successful American investor of all time, is keeping aside piles of cash to invest in single-family houses at bargain prices.

Buffett’s investing philosophy is simple, argued a CCN.com markets analyst, he likes to invest for the long-term, in businesses with great future prospects.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company reported cash reserves of $128 billion as of the company’s latest public report for 2019, leading to heightened curiosity about his next big investment. Many think he is waiting for lower stock prices to make an “elephant-sized acquisition,” the analyst says, or “a housing crash.” And a 2012 CNBC interview “might clue us in to what Buffett is waiting for,” since during the interview Buffett said he would love to “load up on” single-family houses.

The long-term strategy, asset preference and growing cash pile appear to support the theory. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway entered the fourth quarter 2019 with $128 billion in cash, which is five times more than Berkshire’s cash in 2009, the analyst argues.

Except, market data show the housing market is doing well despite the pandemic crisis so Buffett’s hypothetical elephant-sized single-family housing acquisition may never happen.

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