So far, Mr. Potter is winning

By Laurie Bennett

December 20, 2009 at 12:30pm

George Bailey’s desperate efforts to avoid the collapse of Bailey’s Savings & Loan have a special resonance this Christmas.

The number of U.S. bank failures in 2009 has reached 140, the highest number in 17 years. Many experts, including FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, predict that the number will increase next year.

While the FDIC risks losing millions on each failure, investors with cash reserves are seizing opportunities.

The most recent batch of takeovers involved some prominent names: billionaires J. Christopher Flowers, John Paulson and George Soros, Texas banker D. Andrew Beal and Steven T. Mnuchin, head of Dune Capital Management.

Beal, founder of Beal Aerospace, is a friend of Donald Trump and an investor in his resorts. Beal Bank acquired the failed New South Federal Savings Bank of Alabama.

Flowers, Paulson and Soros invested with Mnuchin in OneWest Bank, which bought IndyMac bank earlier this year. Last week, the firm bought the failed First Federal Bank of California.

Sheila Bair’s interview with CNBC, Dec. 14:

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