The federal banking agencies plan to issue a proposal this summer that would give examiners the authority to release grades to bankers for each part of their bank's Camel rating.
Officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said the four agencies are working with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to complete the plan.
FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer has pushed for the change, saying it would help bankers address specific problems.
Yet consultants and bankers said disclosure of grades for each category is irrelevant, because examiners already provide this information.
"They may not give the number ratings, but many times examiners will let bankers know how they did in each category informally, by using code words," said Diane Casey, national director of regulatory issues at Grant Thornton in Washington.
Regulators, however, denied that their examiners divulge this information. The FDIC's policy is never to tell specific grades, said Carmen Sullivan, director of compliance and consumer affairs. "We don't know of any instances where that has happened."
But bankers and consultants said examiners use key words such as "excellent," "adequate," or "poor" instead of number grades to let bankers know how they fared.
James C. Grishaw, a former FDIC examiner who now is a consultant at Professional Bank Services in Louisville, Ky., said the agencies use different terms for each of Camel's five parts. For example, he said, bankers are told their institutions are "well capitalized," "adequately capitalized," or "undercapitalized," their management is "responsive" or "weak," and their earnings are "rising or falling faster or more slowly than their peers'."
"When they go into the discussion about the rating, the examiner touches on each individual category," said Mr. Grishaw. "The directors and management of the bank should be well aware of its condition after speaking to the examiner."
Bankers support the change. A. Hartie Spence, president of Calcasieu Marine National Bank, Lake Charles, La., said he'd prefer to hear the exact grade rather than euphemisms.
"Camel ratings are great planning devices," Mr. Spence said.
When regulators began issuing Camel ratings to bankers in 1979, they decided to release just one overall grade. The fear, regulators said, was that banks would concentrate on technical fixes to improve each of the five grades rather than on broad policies to boost safety and soundness.