WASHINGTON - Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. staffers don't buy the arguments of the so-called Oakar banks that they should pay a smaller share of the Savings Association Insurance Fund bailout.
The banks, which have bought thrifts or thrift branches since 1989, say the FDIC is overcounting their savings-fund-insured deposits, which will cost them big money if thrift deposits are hit with an 85 to 90 basis-point fee to capitalize the savings fund.
"We don't really find merit to most of the complaints," said Roger Watson, director of the FDIC's division of research and statistics.
Two groups of Oakar banks formally asked the FDIC last month to change how it measures their thrift deposits to account for deposit runoff - runoff the banks claim has amounted to 30% to 40% of the thrift deposits they acquired.
The banks' thrift deposits are assumed for assessment purposes to grow at the same rate as their overall deposit base - which as of June 30 meant the almost 800 Oakar banks' savings-fund deposits added up to $203 billion, 27% of the fund total. Mr. Watson said the FDIC staff would recommend against making any major changes to that formula.
Assuming the FDIC board goes along with that recommendation - and FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer has promised a decision soon - it will be up to the Oakar banks' Capitol Hill lobbyists to persuade Congress to give them a break.
The banks have been making progress on that front.
Amendments to aid the Oakars are being offered in both the House and Senate. On Tuesday six leading House Banking Committee members - among them Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., and Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y. - wrote to Ms. Helfer asking for data so they could better evaluate the "strong arguments" of the Oakar banks.
The FDIC already has provided lawmakers with a 22-page "staff analysis," distributed last Friday, that concludes the Oakar banks' proposals are "unconvincing."
FDIC staffers said the Oakar banks had been unable to show reliably how much deposit runoff they have had. "We've discovered they all defined it differently," said Leslie Woolley, Ms. Helfer's deputy for policy.
According to the agency's analysis, the banks should have been aware from the beginning that savings-fund-insured deposits carried risks that Bank Insurance Fund deposits did not - and factored those risks into the price they paid for the deposits.
"When someone is sitting down and making a business decision, they have to look at all the factors, assign a probability to all the factors, and price them," Mr. Watson said. "In other words, don't trust the government; they're always going to do something."