The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is expected to ease restrictions this fall on stock options for outside directors of new banks and thrifts, agency officials said.
Under a 1992 policy statement, the FDIC limits stock bonus and option plans to "active management" of new institutions. The goal is to prevent people from starting institutions to make a quick buck, for example, a bank founder's obtaining stock while investing no money.
The revision likely will allow stock compensation to outside directors as long as it is tied to the institution's performance and does not promote excessive risk-taking, according to FDIC officials.
The American Association of Bank Directors, noting the increasing use of stock options as incentives and alternatives to cash compensation at start- ups, recently complained that the FDIC policy stifles bank formation.
"Organizers and proposed directors of proposed new depository institutions assume substantial financial risk and devote large amounts of time in forming a new bank," wrote David H. Baris, the association's executive director, in a letter to the FDIC chairman.
"Without an immediate change in the manner in which the FDIC applies its policy, qualified individuals will be discouraged from serving as directors of proposed new banks and, in some instances, organizing groups will not be formed," he wrote.
The rising number of start-ups has prompted a new look at the five-year- old policy. The FDIC got 192 insurance applications last year, up nearly one-third from 1995. Through early July, the FDIC had already received 107 applications this year.
Replying to Mr. Baris, acting FDIC Chairman Andrew C. Hove Jr. said the policy is being reconsidered. In the meantime, he noted, the agency's board can make exceptions.
In the past two months, the FDIC has approved three applications that included stock options for outside directors.
Experts disagree over whether the FDIC policy is unfair.
"It's not like starting any other business because there is a government license involved and a federal guarantee," said Edward E. Furash, chief executive of the financial services consulting firm Furash & Co.
The ban "usually goes away fairly soon after a bank is under way," he added.
The agency's policy does not say how long the ban on stock options lasts, but FDIC officials said options are permitted once a bank has shareholders to vote on compensation policy.
But FDIC officials on the West Coast often will not let outside directors take stock options for two years after a bank's opening, according to David J. Block, a lawyer at Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick in San Francisco.
The FDIC now expects a bank's organizers, who typically are its outside directors, to work for years "just for the fun of it," he said.