The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is expected to propose a rule today that would penalize institutions for shifting deposits between the thrift and bank funds.

Under the proposal, thrifts that push customers to shift deposits insured by the Savings Association Insurance Fund to a bank would pay 90 cents per $100 of deposits, said FDIC counsel Joseph A. DiNuzzo.

Banks receiving deposits would be charged another fee, roughly $1 per $100 of deposits, he said.

Congress adopted legislation in September that prohibited institutions from shifting thrift fund-insured deposits to Bank Insurance Fund-insured deposits to avoid the higher thrift fund premiums.

However, the same law virtually eliminated the difference in the thrift fund and bank insurance fund assessments, prompting some observers to question whether the FDIC needs to issue a regulation on deposit shifting.

"I'm not really sure it's all that necessary," said V. Gerard Comizio, a Washington attorney with Thacher Proffitt & Wood who has advised banks and thrifts on the issue. "The premiums have been pretty much leveled off by the legislation."

"Talk about a pointless exercise," said Bert Ely, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based financial consulting firm Ely & Co. "It's a stupid waste of time to do something on that."

Nevertheless, the FDIC does not consider the issue moot, Mr. DiNuzzo said. Although the thrift fund legislation greatly diminished the incentive to shift deposits, Congress required regulators to take "appropriate actions" to deter deposit shifting, he noted.

Also, thrifts are temporarily paying slightly more than banks for deposit insurance. Currently, banks pay 1.3 cents per $100 of deposits to retire Financing Corp. bonds, while thrifts pay 6.5 cents, noted Gilbert T. Schwartz, a partner at the Washington firm of Schwartz & Ballen.

The premium differential will disappear in 2000, when banks and thrifts begin to split the cost of Fico bonds.

Another issue on the table at today's meeting will be how the FDIC defines deposit shifting. Mr. DiNuzzo declined to provide details, but he said the agency tried to craft a definition that's neither too limited for regulators nor too burdensome on financial institutions.

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