Citigroup Inc. will stop paying to insure customers' checking accounts above the standard $250,000, a year after the company almost suffered a run on deposits and had to get a $45 billion government bailout.
The company plans to exit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Transaction Account Guarantee Program on Dec. 31, Alex Samuelson, a spokesman for Citi, said Thursday.
The program was one of several emergency measures created by the government in October 2008 to shore up confidence in the banking system and avert a collapse of financial markets. Bank of America Corp. announced Oct. 16 that it would opt out.
"As the economic environment normalizes, and with Citi now one of the best-capitalized financial institutions in the world with a deliberately liquid and flexible balance sheet, certain temporary programs have served their intended purpose and can be safely allowed to expire," Samuelson said. He declined to say how much the bank will save in fees.
Citi plans to notify corporate customers this week and next, he said. Visitors to branches will see posters explaining the change, along with "tent cards," small, freestanding signs that can be placed on counters, he said. The bank has posted a notice on its Citibank Online sign-on site.
The Tag program covers noninterest-bearing accounts, such as checking, when balances exceed the $250,000 cap available for standard deposit insurance.
About 7,100 banks signed up, and about $700 billion of deposits were covered that otherwise would not have qualified for insurance, according to the FDIC.
In August, the FDIC agreed to extend the Tag program through June 30, 2010, from Dec. 31 of this year.
The cost of participation will increase to a range of 15 cents to 25 cents annually for every $100 of covered deposits, from 10 cents.
U.S. Bancorp and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. also have announced plans to opt out Dec. 31.
Banks have complained about the cost of the guarantees, Standard & Poor's analyst Tanya Azarchs said. In Citi's case, they might be unnecessary because most corporate customers believe the government will not let the bank fail, she said.
"The environment around them has improved a lot, and people generally feel that the government ownership provides a lot of comfort," Azarchs said. "It is simply an economic cost-benefit analysis as to whether they think they're getting enough value for the price that the guarantee carries."
Some banks may be concerned that they'll be stigmatized for staying in the Tag program while peers exit, Azarchs said.
"It'll be construed as a sign of being worried about something," she said.
In November 2008, following a run that forced Wachovia Corp. to seek a rescue, Citi had to seek $20 billion of bailout funds, on top of $25 billion received the previous month from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Both regulators and Citi officials worried then that the bank might run short of funds needed to pay obligations and meet expected withdrawals without government intervention, according to a Nov. 6 report by the Congressional Oversight Panel.