BOSTON - Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer wants Congress to decide what to do with the Oakar banks, and leave her agency out of it.

"If Congress feels that a different distribution of the pie is appropriate, that's certainly a judgment Congress can make," she told reporters Tuesday after a speech at the annual convention of America's Community Bankers here.

"The FDIC has no way to work it out. We can't unscramble the eggs of the last several years."

The Oakars are banks that bought deposits insured by the Savings Association Insurance Fund. A host of them are arguing that, because many of their thrift deposits have run off, their share of the cost of capitalizing the savings fund should be reduced.

The Senate has voted to give the Oakar banks a 10% break on the savings fund fee. The House version of the legislation, on the other hand, asks the FDIC to sort out how much of the Oakar banks' deposits belong in the Bank Insurance Fund and how much in the savings fund.

Ms. Helfer said this is impossible. The banks "simply don't have the data," she said.

In her speech to ACB members, Ms. Helfer called for a quick resolution to the problems of the undercapitalized savings fund, as well as a merger of the bank and savings funds "as soon as practicable - but by a date certain."

After the speech, she explained this meant that legislation to assess an 85-basis-point fee on savings fund deposits and split future Financing Corp. bond payments between banks and thrifts should be passed this year.

Other matters - merging the funds, doing away with the bad-debt tax penalty faced by thrifts that become banks, and merging the bank and thrift charters - can wait, as long as Congress imposes a deadline on itself.

"I favor this approach, even if it has to be done in two steps, because it would assure the immediate soundness of the SAIF, the confidence of the public in the safety net, and the stability of the financial system," she said.

Most of Ms. Helfer's speech to the thrift trade group was devoted to a message she delivered two weeks ago to the American Bankers Association: that she is doing her best "to make the FDIC more efficient, to get greater productivity and more return for every dollar spent."

Ms. Helfer said she understands that "virtually everything we do translates into a cost for insurance fund members."

FDIC staff will be cut by one-seventh this year and expenses by one- fifth, she said. Also, in the first eight months of 1995, the FDIC cut the hours it spent on safety and soundness examinations by an average of almost 10%.

"We are investigating and introducing less intrusive examination techniques, primarily through the use of computers," she said. "Off-site supervision can never replace on-site examinations, but it can complement them and reduce the time necessary for examinations."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.