Comptroller to Spread Word On Enforcement Actions

WASHINGTON - In a change of policy, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has started issuing press releases listing enforcement actions against banks.

The first monthly announcement cites actions against 33 bankers and nationally chartered institutions, including two run by C&S/Sovran Corp.

Previously, the agency disclosedenforcement actions in an expensive technical publication that is not widely distributed.

Publicity Deemed Appropriate

A spokeswoman said the Comptroller decided it was appropriate for the actions to receive wider publicity. She said many regional publications previously never became aware of the actions. "We will probably catch some grief [from banks] for doing this," she acknowledged.

David Baris, a Washington lawyer and executive director of the American Association of Bank Directors, called the change "a significant departure" from past practice. "The effect of such disclosures is unclear," he said.

The press release disclosed that Sovran Bank/D.C. National and Sovran Bank of Richmond were slapped with so-called formal agreements in June.

The agency criticized the two banks' lending practices in a May 1 examination report. A month later, it forced them to enter into written agreements to clean up real estate problems to "protect the interests of the depositors, other customers, and shareholders," the agreement said.

Details of Agreement

The agreement called for the banks to evaluate the ability of current management, implement a plan to eliminate specified problems with troubled loans, and review the banks' reserve for loan losses.

The banks' Atlanta-based parent, C&S/Sovran, agreed last month to merge with Charlotte, N.C.-based NCNB Corp.

The OCC's first release lists 33 enforcement actions: six cease and desist orders, 16 formal agreements, eight civil money penalties, and three removal actions against individuals.

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