Wrapping up the Savings Association Insurance Fund rescue Monday, Congress and President Clinton handed banks and thrifts a $12.9 billion tab.

The new law levies a 65.7-cent fee on every $100 of thrift deposits held on March 31, 1995. The $4.7 billion assessment is due Nov. 29 and must be reported as a third-quarter expense. The money collected will capitalize the thrift fund and let thrift premiums be brought in line with those of banks by 2000.

To pay off the interest due on Financing Corp. bonds, used to finance the 1980s thrift bailout, banks will start chipping in Jan. 1. Through 1999, banks will pay $322 million of the bonds' $780 annual cost. In 2000, the industry will assume the bulk of the payments, or $608 million.

The law aims to merge the thrift fund into the stronger Bank Insurance Fund by 1999, but not until the bank and thrift charters are combined. The Treasury Department has until March 31 to deliver a report to Congress on melding the charters.

Until the charters are merged, thrifts will be prohibited from shiftingdeposits into the bank fund to escape the higher fees charged by savings association fund.

After fighting the legislation for 18 months, on Tuesday bankers across the country were tallying their share of the cost. Though many bankers resent being forced to rescue the thrift industry, few expect any problem paying their share.

Broadway National Bank in San Antonio will fork over more than $3 million by 2017, when the cleanup will be over. "Psychologically we're prepared for it and financially we're prepared for it," said Gregory W. Crane, president and chief executive. "Still, I don't think any banker is perfectly satisfied that we had to be included in the final bailout of the savings and loan industry."

As bankers grumbled, one thrift executive pointed out that thrifts also are paying for a problem they didn't create. "The surviving thrifts didn't have anything to do with their brethren going under, just as banks didn't," said William A. Cooper, chairman of TCF Financial Corp., a $7 billion-asset thrift holding company in Minneapolis.

TCF will pay $34 million to capitalize the thrift fund. Mr. Cooper said the heavy burden will be worth it in the long run. "With the reduction in premiums, it works out to a full payback in a little over three years," he said. "That's a pretty good return."

The one-time assessment doesn't hit all SAIF-insured institutions equally. One big group of institutions, banks that own thrift deposits, will get a big break. A 20% reduction in their special assessment will save these 740 so-called Oakar and Sasser banks $497 million.

The haircut will reduce the assessment to be paid by Crestar Financial Corp. by $7 million, to about $28 million. More than 40% of the Richmond, Va., banking company's $13 billion in deposits are insured by the thrift fund.

Despite the high cost, Crestar pushed for the deal. "I think at this stage we'd just like to get this behind us and minimize the premium differential between bank and thrift deposits," said James D. Barr, Crestar's treasurer.

In addition to the provisions shoring up SAIF and Fico, the new law tames roughly 30 banking regulations, including the Truth-in-Lending, Real Estate Settlement Procedures, and Home Mortgage Disclosure acts. It protects lenders from the costs of cleaning up contaminated property and prevents the Farm Credit System from chartering credit unions. (For more coverage of the new law, see facing page.)

Though most bankers are resigned to making Fico payments, a few are still steaming.

Thomas R. Youngblood, president and chief executive of Western Bank and Trust in Duncanville, Tex., said he feels betrayed by American Bankers Association, which agreed to the deal this summer.

"Our taxes are going to bail out a competitor," said Mr. Youngblood, whose six-year-old bank has $100 million in assets. "It's just mind- boggling that we could have been that ineffective in making this argument to Congress."

The Texas banker scoffed at the regulatory relief package, which the ABA praised as the best possible deal. "What we got out of it was not commensurate with the cost - no way."

Western Bank's Fico bill will be $24,000 yearly, money Mr. Youngblood said he'd rather use to expand his loan department. "I could certainly hire another junior loan officer to beef up our SBA lending," he said.

Note to Readers

Over the next two days, the American Banker will continue to assess the impact of the thrift fund bailout. Next week, in a separate series, the paper will examine the legislation's provisions on regulatory relief for banks.

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