WASHINGTON - climbed to 1.30% in the third quarter, leading industry representatives to press for further cuts in premiums. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. announced Monday that the Bank Insurance Fund grew $398 million, to $25.1 billion, during the three months ended Sept. 30. Though the agency did not include the reserve ratio in the financial results, American Bankers Association chief economist James Chessen said the FDIC has collected $877 million more than it needs. "They're simply overcharging the industry and taking more funds away from communities so that they can sit idle in Washington," Mr. Chessen said. "There's just no justification to continue charging these very high premiums." The agency slashed the premiums that banks pay by 83%, to an average 4.4 cents per $100 of domestic deposits, in August. The bank fund reached the required reserve level in May, holding $1.25 for each $100 of insured deposits. However, Mr. Chessen argued that premiums should be cut even more. If banks continue to pay 4.4 cents through the end of the year, the fund's reserve ratio will be at 1.31%, or a whopping $1.1 billion over the amount required by law, Mr. Chessen said. Though the FDIC is expected to announce 1996 premiums next month, the House Banking Committee voted in September to limit the FDIC's authority to build reserves beyond the 1.25% ratio. The agency would still be able to adjust the reserve level, but only "when economic circumstances dictate" a change, according to the bill. The measure was folded into the broad budget legislation approved by the House last week. The Senate budget bill does not address the issue. The FDIC also reported that the health of the Savings Association Insurance Fund is improving. Over the third quarter, the thrift fund swelled $497 million, to $3.1 billion, up from $2 billion a year earlier. That brings the SAIF's reserve ratio to 0.43%, an increase from 0.29% a year ago. Also on Monday, the FDIC board appointed Arthur J. Murton director of the agency's new division of insurance. The division will manage the FDIC's risk-related premium system and analyze the state of the banking system and the economy. Mr. Murton has been the FDIC's deputy director of research; he joined the agency in 1986 as a financial economist. The FDIC also approved a new corporate investment policy, which essentially breaks up the agency's portfolio into six sections, including one distinct portfolio for the investment of Bank Insurance Fund premiums, and two for thrift fund premiums. Under the new policy, the Bank Insurance Fund portfolio will be invested in overnight securities to cover near-term bank failures and expenses, as well as securities with maturities of up to 10 years.
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