The National Credit Union Administration cracked down on corporate credit unions Friday, issuing a rule that curbs investments and raises capital requirements.

However, the agency said corporates may gain broader powers by agreeing to more supervision and even higher capital ratios.

The NCUA will assign each of the 41 corporate credit unions to one of four categories. Only corporates willing to hold extra capital and undergo more oversight will be allowed to invest in derivatives or foreign countries.

About half of all corporates are expected to choose the category with the least supervision and capital, according to Robert F. Schafer, director of the NCUA's office of corporate credit unions.

These corporates will have to maintain at least 4% capital. More enterprising corporates could have to hold 6% capital or more, depending on their business plan.

The NCUA limited the concentration of corporate investments, including a cap of 200% of reserves, undivided earnings, and paid-in capital, in any single security or trust. Loans to member credit unions cannot exceed 50% of capital.

NCUA Chairman Norman E. D'Amours and board member Yolanda T. Wheat voted in favor of the rule, which will take effect next Jan. 1. NCUA Vice Chairman Shirlee P. Bowne was absent from Friday's meeting because of a family emergency.

This regulation has been in the works for two years. After corporate credit unions shot down the original proposal, both sides compromised, Mr. D'Amours said. "The industry played a good, cooperative, communicative part in this."

Corporates had worried that the NCUA would force them to raise fees and slash dividends to comply, but the final rule eased that fear, said Kathy L. Garner, president of Northwest Corporate Credit Union, Beaverton, Ore., and chairwoman of the Association of Corporate Credit Unions.

"I don't foresee us losing members with the new regulation," said Eric J. Kenealy, executive vice president of Mid-States Corporate Federal Credit Union, Naperville, Ill.

The new regulation is "a nonevent" in the eyes of Kermit M. Kidwell, chief executive of Clara Barton Federal Credit Union, Falls Church, Va., which he said will continue investing about half its funds in a corporate.

Congress pressured the NCUA to tighten its reins on corporates after $1.4 billion-asset Capital Corporate Federal Credit Union, Lanham, Md., lost millions on mortgage derivatives and failed in January 1995. Corporates complained that the NCUA's original proposal, including a requirement to match shares and deposits to assets, would render them uncompetitive for investments by retail credit unions.

"The regulation varies significantly from the original one-size-fits-all proposal," Mr. Schafer said.

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