I saw contained fear in the eyes of the 200 people lined up outside the IndyMac Bank at the firm's Pasadena headquarters. People were keeping it together, trying not to panic, but worried about their money. FDIC officials patiently answered all questions as best they could.
Customer Harvey Soldan was on vacation when the run on the bank started. He hoped to get his money out and roll it into a new bank which he suggests might also "go belly up...what are we gonna do?"
Ray Guerrero stood in line saying, "First they tell you not to put your money in banks in Mexico, it's not safe. And this is what happens to me!" Jyothi Devireddi stood next to him saying, "I wish I'd known my bank better."
But perhaps the most heartbreaking story here is Charles Tengeri's. Born in Kenya, he was the first customer here this morning, arriving at 4 am, to try to retrieve his life savings.
Like many of the others here, Tengeri was oblivious to news reports that IndyMacwas in trouble until the bank closed on Friday. He has $236,000 spread across five accounts, and he was led to believe that as long as no individual account was over $100,000, all of it was insured. It is not.
"The tellers (originally) told me that if I split the accounts this way, I should be able to get it all out," he said. "But the way they were telling me yesterday when I came in here, they said 'You have to have it in different names, not the same name.'"
That is true. The FDIC says Tengeri is seen as one depositor, no matter how many accounts he has. It would be different if each account was structured differently. For example, if he had an individual account for $100,000, and then a joint account with a spouse for $200,000, the entire amount would be insured. It's a little overwhelming.
Tengeri knew he could walk away today with $168,000 of his $236,000--that is, the insured $100,000 plus half the rest (the FDIC is paying 50 cents on the dollar for uninsured deposits). He was praying, literally, for more. And he got a little more--walking out of the bank with $171,000.
When asked if he ever expected to see the rest of his money, Charles Tengeri says he hopes so. "I have full trust in the U.S. Government that they're gonna do it," he said.
What will he do differently next time? "I'm never going to put in anything over 100,000 again," he said. "Never."