James M. Cirona, the former top federal regulator of savings and loans in California, Nevada and Arizona, abruptly resigned Thursday as president and chief executive of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
The bank is a quasi-government agency whose primary job is to provide credit to savings and loans. It was once part of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board's San Francisco office, which Cirona headed from 1983 to 1989 when it had supervisory powers over thrifts in the region.
But the federal thrift bailout in 1989 split the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in two pieces, reducing Cirona's powers. One part is the network of regional Federal Home Loan banks such as the one Cirona headed; the other is the Office of Thrift Supervision, which supervises institutions.
Cirona was head of the bank board's San Francisco office when it fought to crack down on Lincoln Savings & Loan and its former owner, Charles H. Keating Jr. Cirona was present at the infamous April, 1987, meeting when five U.S. senators were alleged to have tried to influence regulators dealing with Keating.
The official announcement was vague in spelling out Cirona's reasons for leaving. The bank's vice chairman, Golden West Financial Chairman Herbert M. Sandler, indicated in a statement that Cirona was leaving because he feels the bank is firmly established following the bailout legislation.
A spokeswoman said Cirona declined to be interviewed. General Counsel Jill Spencer quoted Cirona, 59, as saying he "wants to do something different." There were unconfirmed rumors floating around the thrift industry Thursday that Cirona had clashed with board members. Spencer said that Cirona brought up the matter of his resignation at a meeting Thursday and was not asked to resign.
Cirona was under consideration last year to take over as chief executive of ailing Great American Bank in San Diego, but could not reach agreement with the thrift's board. Industry executives speculated that Cirona, who made $230,000 a year, may want to seek a higher paying job as a chief executive with an institution.
They added that Cirona may want to move on because his job had become not nearly as important as it was when he supervised thrifts. In addition, Federal Home Loan banks have an uncertain future as the S&L business shrinks.
Paul D. Hill was named as acting president to replace Cirona. Hill previously was executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta. He is expected to return to Atlanta once a successor is found, Spencer said.