WASHINGTON - The government announced plans Tuesday to return $1.5 billion to banks overcharged for deposit insurance since June 1.

Refunds of premiums paid from June through September will be made Sept. 15 via an electronic credit to each bank through the automated clearinghouse network. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. also said it plans to send each bank an explanation of how its refund was calculated. The refund amounts to $1.49 billion in overpayments and $19.9 million in interest.

But though bankers said they were thrilled to be getting money back from the government, they also said they believe they're entitled to more.

"Banks are still owed about $450 million that apparently will not be refunded," said James A. Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association.

Mr. Chessen figures the refund should be closer to $2 billion because as of May 31 the FDIC said the bank fund had $24.2 billion or 1.267% of $19 trillion in insured deposits.

By June 30, the fund had climbed to $24.7 billion, or 1.288%, the FDIC also reported Tuesday.

"I don't know how the banking industry can feel comfortable when they see a June balance of 1.29%," Mr. Chessen said. "It means there is a lot of money that should be back in banks' communities that is sitting in Washington."

The Bank Insurance Fund, by law, must hold $1.25 for every $100 of insured deposits before premiums may be lowered or refunds for overpayments made.

The controversy stems from the timing of the recapitalization.

Almost everyone who follows the issue, including the FDIC, knew the fund hit its 1.25% target in April or May, but the agency said it could not pinpoint the date until it had time to analyze the June 30 call reports.

The agency Tuesday did not give an exact date when the 1.25% target was reached, saying simply that the recapitalization occurred in May. Because the FDIC does its books on a monthly basis, it plans to calculate the refund from the first day of June.

The ABA, Mr. Chessen said, wants refunds to be paid from the day the fund reached its required reserves.

By law, the FDIC could not lower bank premiums until the fund recapitalized. So Tuesday's announcement allows the FDIC to cut premiums 83% to an average of 4.4 cents per $100 of domestic deposits. This reduction was proposed in January and approved by the FDIC board on Aug. 8.

The new rate takes effect Sept. 29, providing insurance coverage from October through December. The FDIC said it will soon be mailing invoices for the fourth quarter, which were delayed "to incorporate the correct premium rate."

The FDIC credited the bank fund's comeback to the low level of failures.

In 1994, just 13 banks with $1.4 billion in assets failed and cost the FDIC $139 million. This year is ever better. Only four banks with $526 million in assets were closed through June 30, costing the agency $31 million. The FDIC said it reduced its reserves for losses from bank failures by $316 million, adding that money to the bank fund's general reserves.

The FDIC also released mid-year figures for the Savings Association Insurance Fund. The thrift fund had $2.6 billion on June 30, for a reserve ratio of .365%. FDIC said the thrift fund's recovery is being stalled by the $790 million due on the Fico bonds. Of the $868 million collected by the thrift fund through June 30, $441 million was diverted to pay off the bonds floated in 1987 to begin the industry's cleanup.

Because the thrift fund has not met the 1.25% target, thrifts will continue paying the current high rates of 23 cents to 31 cents.

Congress is considering a proposal from the FDIC, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Treasury Department to capitalize the thrift fund. The three-part plan would add $6.1 billion to SAIF's reserves through a one- time fee on thrift deposits, would merge the bank and thrift funds, and would require banks to pay about 75% of the annual interest due on Financing Corp. bonds.

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