Banks soon won't have to file currency transaction reports on companies traded on major stock exchanges, senior Treasury Department officials say.

By mid-March, the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network plans to make final a rule allowing banks to exempt transactions exceeding $10,000 for any company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, or Nasdaq.

Government officials had said companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange would be exempt. But the addition of the other exchanges will vastly increase the number of companies exempt from currency transaction reports.

Federal, state, and local government accounts also will be exempted in the coming rule. A proposal naming further exemptions is expected, but Fincen officials would not speculate on a timetable.

While waiting for exemptions, bankers have had to laboriously track a bank's records to prove to the government that a company is legitimate.

"You have to do so much to prove they should be exempt," said Kate Barr, compliance officer at Riverside Bank, Minneapolis. "You have to go through their records over time, do charts, and show what a normal flow of cash is for their account. It's a time-consuming process.''

Bankers are complaining that they've been promised exemptions before that failed to materialize. For too long, bankers said, Fincen has left them to judge which companies to allow transactions of more than $10,000 without prompting a report.

"We very much welcome the changes, and we hear they're coming soon," said Billy Taylor, compliance officer at Hagerstown (Md.) Trust Corp. "But they've just taken so long to come out that it has been frustrating." He added that some banks have given up on exempting companies because of the lack of government guidance.

Recognizing banks' impatience with delays, Fincen officials said the rule exempting publicly traded companies will take effect immediately on publication in the Federal Register. Public comments will be taken on the plan, but they will come after the rule takes effect rather than before, as is customary.

The new rule will eliminate the need to publish a list of 2,000 exempted companies that Fincen director Stanley E. Morris had promised would be released at the end of 1995.

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