The Office of Thrift Supervision on Wednesday adopted an interim rule giving savings institutions the power to offer more small- business and credit card loans.

The agency doubled to 20% of assets the amount of commercial credit that thrifts may extend. But the agency said all commercial loans in excess of 10% of assets must be to small businesses. The regulator also dropped limits on credit card loans.

The regulator also said it will no longer examine holding companies that own thrifts and banks; the Federal Reserve already reviews these institutions.

Finally, the OTS said thrifts may offer discounts to customers who maintain minimum balances in a variety of deposit, loan, and brokerage accounts.

Congress required the agency to adopt all these changes in the 1996 thrift capitalization bill.

"We are very pleased they got this out as an interim rule," said Gary Gilbert, a regulatory specialist at America's Community Bankers. "It is important that the industry know the ground rules. It will add more certainty to the process."

In a separate action on Wednesday, the OTS streamlined its conflict-of- interest and hazard-insurance regulations.

The final rule, effective Jan. 1, says thrift executives can avoid trouble if they disclose conflicts of interest to their boards and do not engage in discussions or votes on the matters.

The agency also added a safe harbor to its corporate opportunity regulation, ruling that an executive may personally pursue a business opportunity that the thrift has rejected. Finally, the agency dropped a rule requiring hazard insurance on mortgaged property. It said this already is covered by interagency real estate lending guidelines.

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