State regulators shut down Bank of Wyoming of Thermopolis, Wyo. Friday, bringing the total number of failed U.S. banks and savings and loan associations during 2009 to 53.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was named receiver and sold all of the failed bank's retail deposits to Central Bank & Trust of Lander, Wyo.

Please see TheStreet.com's Bank Failure Map for an interactive summary of all previous bank and savings and loan failures during 2008 and 2009.

Bank of Wyoming had just been assigned an E-minus (Very Weak) rating by TheStreet.com Ratings, based on March 31 financial results. The rating was a downgrade from the D-minus (Weak) rating, which had been assigned in December.

Unlike the 12 other banks that failed over the past two weeks, Bank of Wyoming wasn't included in TheStreet.com's recent list of 89 undercapitalized banks and thrifts. That's because as of March 31, its Tier 1 leverage ratio was 4.05%, just above the 4% threshold for a bank to be considered adequately capitalized. Bank of Wyoming's risk-based capital ratio was 8.81%.

Of course, in the current environment, "adequate" is not "good" when it comes to a bank's level of capital. The Tier 1-leverage and total risk-based capital ratios need to be at least 5% and 10% for most institutions to be considered well-capitalized under regulatory capital guidelines.

The bank's capital was overwhelmed by charge-offs (loan losses) on commercial and industrial loans, as well as construction and commercial real estate loans.

Bank of Wyoming had total assets of $70 million and deposits of $67 million. Central Bank and Trust agreed to take over all of the failed bank's deposits, except for approximately $8 million in brokered deposits. The FDIC will pay these balances directly to the brokers and advised customers who placed brokered deposits in Bank of Wyoming to contact their brokers directly.

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The failed bank's office was set to reopen during normal business hours as a branch of Central Bank and Trust. The FDIC estimate the cost to its insurance fund would be $27 million.

Bank of Wyoming was the first bank to fail in Wyoming state during the current crisis. Georgia ranks first among states with 14 bank or thrift failures during 2008 and 2009, followed by Illinois with 13, California with 11, Florida with five and Nevada with four.

Large bank holding companies that have acquired failed institutions during 2008 and 2009 include J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM), which acquired Washington Mutual, the largest-ever bank or thrift to fail in the U.S., SunTrust Banks ( STI), Regions Financial ( RF), Zions Bancorp ( ZION), Fifth Third Bancorp ( FITB), U.S. Bancorp ( USB) and BB&T Corp ( BBT).

Free Financial Strength Ratings

Bank of Wyoming's depositors fared well, because the FDIC was able to line up Central Bank & Trust to buy most of its deposits, but there's always a chance that the FDIC will fail to find a buyer if a bank or savings and loan association fails. When that happens, uninsured deposit balances are at risk.

Even if your personal deposits are under FDIC insurance limits, you or someone you know are probably associated with a business, organization or government entity (such as a school district) with large deposits of somebody else's money of in a local bank. In this environment, it is a very good idea to look into the health of your bank.

For depositors shopping for high-rate CDs through brokers, it is also important to consider the health of a bank or thrift, since attractive CD rates that are locked in can be lost when an institution fails. Bank of Wyoming's customers with CD deposits made through brokers are facing this inconvenient scenario and will probably have to wait a few weeks to receive their money.

TheStreet.com Ratings issues independent and very conservative financial strength ratings on each of the nation's 8,500 banks and savings and loans. They are available at no charge on the Banks & Thrifts Screener. In addition, the Financial Strength Ratings for 4,000 life, health, annuity, and property/casualty insurers are available on the Insurers & HMOs Screener.
Philip W. van Doorn joined TheStreet.com Ratings., Inc., in February 2007. He is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. He also comments on industry and regulatory trends. Mr. van Doorn has fifteen years experience, having served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida, and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Long Island University.

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