Banking Regulators Prepare for Hurricane Sandy

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WASHINGTON — U.S. bank regulatory agencies were mostly closed on Monday as a potentially fatal hurricane made its gradual approach to the Washington area.

The Office of Personnel and Management had effectively shut down all government offices on Sunday afternoon and told non-emergency employees to stay home due to Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to create gusts of winds of 60 mph to 70 mph starting Monday afternoon.

The capital region's entire public transit system — Metro, Virginia Railway Express and the Maryland Transportation Authority — also ceased operation on Monday.

Regulators sent out notifications to reporters late Sunday evening relaying the message: It would not be business as usual.

The Federal Reserve Board informed the public late Sunday it would not publish its usual round of data releases until normal business operations resumed.

"The Board's daily and weekly statistical releases scheduled for Monday will be published on the first business day that federal offices in Washington, D.C. area reopen," according to a statement on the Fed's Web site.

In a precautionary move, the Fed also closed some of its regional offices in the Northeast that could be affected by the storm. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was closed Monday. The Fed said any decision to keep the bank closed on Tuesday would be made later Monday. The East Rutherford Operations Center in New Jersey and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston are operating only with essential employees.

All of the 10 other regional Fed banks remained open. The New York Fed said it would remain open Monday and that previously scheduled sales of Treasury securities would continue as planned with a 10:15 a.m. open and 11:00 a.m. close, according to the bank. Settlement, however, will be postponed until Wednesday. Purchases of securities anticipated for Tuesday has been postponed indefinitely until additional details are provided for rescheduled operations.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department kept some daily operations going Monday, including its weekly auction.

"Treasury's 13- and 26-week bill auctions will close at the regularly scheduled time of 11:30 a.m. today," Treasury said in a statement.

It also moved up its previously scheduled 4-week bill auction to accommodate the incoming storm.

"In addition, due to the weather forecast for the coming days, Treasury will move up its previously scheduled 4-week bill auction to October 29 from October 30. The 4-week auction will now close at 10:30 a.m. today," the statement said.

Despite the general shutdown, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it would still be able to provide necessary support to examiners if needed.

"The OCC has taken measures to ensure essential services supported from within the capital region continue to be available to examiners and bankers throughout the storm," said OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard.

Separately, the agency also issued a proclamation permitting national banks and federal thrifts to close their offices at their discretion because of Hurricane Sandy.

Jennifer Kelly, the OCC's senior deputy comptroller for mid-size and community bank supervision, said she anticipates only banks impacted by the storm will close and urged those institutions to reopen as soon as possible to meet the needs of their customers.

Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said during such weather-related events the agency typically keeps in close touch with institutions it supervises and will be ready to help with any issues after the storm passes.

"Given the localized nature of the weather and our ability to work remotely, I would expect that this will have minimal impact on our operations," said Gray.

The FDIC also maintains on its Web site a resource for consumers and bankers affected by natural disasters, which is updated routinely as additional information becomes available. No new information had been posted on the site related to Hurricane Sandy as of late Monday morning.

All the agencies said employees will continue to follow the OPM's guidance for closures or delays in the coming days.

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