IRVINE — Lincoln Savings & Loan lost nearly a billion dollars this year and taxpayers are expected to pay $2 billion to repair it, but still the thrift has dug deep into its pockets to pay for a full-page newspaper ad inviting the public to share some free cider and Christmas cookies.
The federal regulators who seized the failed thrift in April spent $37,622.85 on an ad in Monday's Los Angeles Times to tout their hospitality. The ad features a picture of Santa with the following caption: "He's not the only one with something for you this Christmas."
For those who don't know it, next week is "Lincoln Savings Customer Appreciation Week." The cookies and cider are a gesture of "a taste of the true spirit of Christmas," according to the ad.
"They decided to run the ad as an expression of appreciation to the loyal customers who continue to do business with them," said Phil Salvati, president of the Costa Mesa agency that placed the ad.
Federal officials hope Santa Claus and a little apple juice can stop a continuing erosion in deposits at Lincoln's 29 branches. On Dec. 31 last year, the thrift had $4.4 billion. By Sept. 30, that figure had fallen to $3.6 billion. The thrift lost $877 million in the first nine months of the year.
"They want to maintain a customer base and hopefully win back some new customers because they don't want this thing to be a bigger problem financially than it already is," Salvati said.
Lincoln, which was a subsidiary of Phoenix-based American Continental Corp., is expected to be the costliest thrift failure ever. A congressional committee recently ended a series of hearings that examined how Lincoln was operated by American Continental and its chairman, Charles H. Keating Jr.
The regulators running Lincoln could not be reached for comment.