WASHINGTON - Banks hit with regulatory enforcement actions are 2#1/2 times as likely as a typical bank to go out of business, according to Veribanc Inc., Wakefield, Mass.

Since early 1991, when regulators began publicly disclosing enforcement actions, 2,480 institutions have received 4,521 sanctions. Banks accounted for 2,956, or 65% of that total. These figures are for enforcement measures doled out through October 1994.

"Banks subject to any type of adverse enforcement actions are 2#1/2 times more likely than a typical banks to merge, be absorbed into other members of their holding company, or fail within one year," Veribanc said.

Enforcement actions leveled off in 1994, according to Warren Heller, Veribanc's research director. But the number of penalties may swell this year.

"We may see more enforcement actions against banks that aren't managing their interest rate risk very well," he said. "That's a trend that's on the rise."

Institutions slapped with the most severe punishment - a cease-and- desist order - have the highest rate of extinction, Veribanc found. Nearly 50% of all banks with a cease-and-desist order were out of business within three years.

"I think it indicates that banks that adhere to the rules precisely have a better chance of being around longer than banks that don't," Mr. Heller said.

Banks with multiple enforcement actions were the next-most-vulnerable lot. Veribanc said 46.7% of these banks failed or were acquired within three years.

The best shot of surviving a regulatory action goes to banks with a single action against an employee. Just 35% of these banks disappeared in three years.

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