DEFINITION of 'Bank Failure'

The closing of an insolvent bank by a federal or state regulator. The comptroller of the currency has the power to close national banks; banking commissioners in the respective states close state-chartered banks. Banks close when they are unable to meet their obligations to depositors and others. When a bank fails, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) covers the insured portion of a depositors balance.

BREAKING DOWN 'Bank Failure'

During the financial crisis that started in 2007, the biggest bank failure in U.S. history occurred when Washington Mutual with $307 billion in assets closed its doors. Another large bank failure had occurred just a few months earlier, when IndyMac was seized.

The second all-time largest closure was $40 billion Continental Illinois in 1984.

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