WMI Holdings Corp. v. United States, No. 17-1944 (Fed. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
During the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1970s and 1980s, many “thrift” institutions failed. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, as insurer and regulator, encouraged healthy thrifts to take over failing ones in “supervisory mergers.” FSLIC provided incentives, including allowing acquiring thrifts to operate branches in states other than their home states and “RAP” rights. Regulations mandated that each thrift maintain a minimum capital of at least 3% of its liabilities, an obstacle for healthy thrifts acquiring failing ones. RAP permitted acquiring thrifts to use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles to treat failing thrifts’ excess liabilities as “supervisory goodwill,” which could be counted toward the acquiring thrifts’ minimum regulatory capital requirement and amortized over 40 years. Home Savings entered into supervisory mergers. Branching and RAP rights are considered intangible assets for tax purposes and are generally subject to abandonment loss and amortization deductions. In 2008, Home’s successor, WMI, sought a refund for tax years 1990, 1992, and 1993 based on the amortization of RAP rights and the abandonment of Missouri branching rights, proffering valuation testimony from its expert, Grabowski, about fair market value. The Ninth Circuit found WMI did “not prove, to a reasonable degree of certainty, Home’s cost basis in the Branching and RAP rights.” WMI also filed suit in the Claims Court, seeking a refund for tax years 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1998, based on the amortization of RAP rights and the abandonment of Florida, Illinois, New York, and Ohio branching rights, with a valuation report from Grabowski. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court's rejection of the claims; Grabowski’s assumptions about the nature of RAP rights were inconsistent with market realities and, at times, unsupported.