SAN ANTONIO - Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer told bankers here Tuesday that Congress should maintain her agency's board at five members if it merges the funds that back bank and thrift deposits.

Addressing the annual convention of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas through a satellite hookup, Ms. Helfer said legislation being considered by both the House and Senate to eliminate the Office of Thrift Supervision would result in a four-seat FDIC board if the seat now held by the OTS director is dropped.

"The FDIC could be reduced from five seats to four - but that is not a workable number," she said, noting that it leaves open the possibility of tie votes.

Ms. Helfer also raised concerns about a possible three-member board, which she said is contemplated in the House Banking Committee version of the legislation.

By law, she said, a quorum of board members cannot discuss FDIC business except in an open meeting. On a three-member board, two members constitute a quorum.

Ms. Helfer said she is giving serious consideration to a suggestion at a congressional hearing last week that a Federal Reserve Board governor become the fifth member.

The FDIC chairman also said she had concluded that her agency's Dallas office was spending too much time examining banks.

"Over the last three days, I have looked at the distribution of on-site examination time and I believe the Dallas region is out of line," she said.

"I believe you will see an appreciable difference in on-site examination time, immediately," she added to applause.

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