Feds Nix NextCards

The NextCard home page still encourages people to sign up for the Internet
credit card, but the feds, who seized its failed NextBank subsidiary last
February, are advising about 800,000 Visa cardholders that their plastic is
no longer good.


The news really should not be a surprise, as NextCard went down
with a boom
when banking regulators told the company that its online
banking subsidiary, NextBank, would have to categorize certain fraud losses
as credit losses and would have to apply them to its loan loss reserves.


The FDIC, which is now running the bank, said the ultimate cost to the
taxpayers for the failure of NextBank will be between $300 million and $400
million. Many NextCard customers apparently received the news in e-mails sent
yesterday; other customers won’t find out until they receive letters later
this week.


“We tried to give as much warning as possible,” FDIC spokesman David Barr
told the Associated Press. “It’s been a real juggling act for us to keep
these accounts active.”


Regulators had been trying to sell the accounts for more than four months,
but apparently Internet shoppers and cardholders were not of much interest to
more established financial institutions. The FDIC finally struck a deal last
week to sell about 200,000 NextCard accounts to Utah-based Merrick Bank for
$126 million. Merrick Bank will take over those accounts by the end of
September. The other 800,000 are being closed.


San Francisco-based NextCard saw its stock crash
last October
when banking regulators warned about problems at NextBank.


NextCard became a
skeleton company
in March when it eliminated the jobs of 90 percent of
its employees and asked Nasdaq to delist its stock
effective March 18. The stock is now traded on the OTCBB and is listed in the
one-cent range.


NextCard account holders will lose all bonus points that they stockpiled
while using their cards, although Amazon.com said it would honor them. The
customers also won’t receive refunds for any annual fees they may have paid
to use the cards.


All customers with closed accounts will be required to pay off their
outstanding balances under the interest rates previously in effect.


NextBank was a non-traditional lender whose business consisted of issuing
credit cards and taking minimum $100,000 certificates of deposit. NextCard
acquired the operation with the August 1999 acquisition of Textron Financial
Corp.


At the time the bank was seized, the feds said that: “NextBank pursued a
strategy of marketing credit cards solely through the Internet. However, the
OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) found that the bank’s risk
management policies and procedures were inadequate and the bank’s assets were
of lower credit quality than initially projected in the bank’s business plan.
The bank failed to identify the extent of its credit quality problem or to
implement effective corrective measures.”


Ironically, even this morning the NextCard site was enticing new
customers to sign up, saying “Click here to get your card.” But when you
click through, you get this: “Thank you for your interest in NextCard,
unfortunately we are presently not accepting new applications for credit.”

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