Banking & Capital Markets

Probes of Doral Financial, First BanCorp

Two of Puerto Rico's largest financial institutions face U.S. investigations into their accounting.
Craig SchneiderAugust 26, 2005

Less than a week after San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Doral Financial Corp. announced the firing of its chief financial officer, it has disclosed the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has subpoenaed its accounting records from 2000 to the present.

First BanCorp, also based in San Juan, announced separately that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an informal inquiry of the accounting for mortgage loans it purchased from two other financial institutions between 2000 and 2004. Doral is also facing an informal SEC probe, according to Reuters.

Earlier this year Doral disclosed that it would write off $600 million and restate its financials for the periods from January 2000 through December 31, 2004. The SEC’s inquiry is examining Doral’s accounting for so-called “strips” — floating-rate, interest-only securities — Reuters reported.

Last week, when Doral announced the firing of chief financial officer Ricardo Melendez, the bank holding company also announced that chief executive officer Salomon Levis would resign on September 15 and that treasurer Mario Levis would resign immediately. Doral’s secretary told Reuters that the company believes those executive changes may have sparked the U.S. attorney’s subpoena.

Earlier this month, when First BanCorp disclosed that its audit committee would review mortgage loans purchased from other financial institutions, the company stated that it would delay filing its financials for the quarter ended June 30.

The review will examine whether First BanCorp should have recorded the transactions as loans to the other financial institutions rather than as purchases under SFAS No. 140. The company will also look into whether any of the transactions resulted in derivatives requiring the application of SFAS No. 133. First BanCorp noted that it did not record any interest-only strips as a result of the transactions in question.

If the accounting changes, the company’s loan book and net interest margin might decline, according to unnamed analysts cited by Reuters.

In separate statements, Doral and First BanCorp announced that they are cooperating with U.S. investigators.

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