Massachusetts regulators will adopt new year-2000 guidelines this month to make doubly sure that banks and credit unions are preparing.
Though federal guidelines are already in place, Massachusetts will impose its own regulations Jan. 22 to ensure that computer systems at state-chartered institutions will be running smoothly on Jan. 1, 2000. Banks and credit unions that fail to comply with the regulations face penalties that, in the most severe cases, could include the removal of officers and directors.
"We're doing this to reinforce the importance of contingency planning," said Steven L. Antonakes, senior deputy commissioner at the Massachusetts Division of Banks.
Massachusetts may be the only state to adopt formal year-2000 regulations. Most state regulators say there is no need because their banks report to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the Federal Reserve on year-2000 progress.
"The federal rules that exist seem to be very thorough," said Donald D. DeMatteis, superintendent at the Maine Bureau of Banking. Establishing a new set of rules, he said, "would be incredibly duplicative."
Donald Mann, deputy commissioner of Michigan's Financial Institutions Bureau, said, "That's the kind of regulatory burden that we try to avoid."
Still, state regulators are working closely with the FDIC and the Federal Reserve to monitor state banks' progress. And even without their own rules, state regulators say they are in position to discipline bankers.
"If we have a real outlaw banker, then we will deal with him," said Mr. Mann.
Computer systems that recognize only the last two digits in a year could fail on Jan. 1, 2000, by reading the "00" as "1900." More than 95% of the nation's banks, thrifts, and credit unions have replaced or upgraded their computers and are testing to make sure the year-2000 problem is fixed, according to the FDIC.