WASHINGTON - The nation's top thrift examiner is resigned to the idea that his agency isn't long for this world.

"There really appears to be no need for separate regulation of the thrift industry" once its insurance fund and national charter are merged with banks', said John Downey, director of supervision at the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Speaking Thursday at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' annual savings institutions conference here, Mr. Downey said that once the consolidation of funds and charters being proposed in Congress is effected, there won't be any reason to keep his agency separate from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Mr. Downey said he does not, however, expect this consolidation to be smooth. "The cost of putting the two agencies together will be extensive," he said. "When all is said and done it will be a shrinking agency overseeing a shrinking industry."

He added, "Broader consolidation (of banking agencies) is really the answer, but we won't be seeing that in my lifetime."

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