WASHINGTON -- In a concrete sign of how regulators turned up the heat last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said its enforcement actions against banks jumped by 21%.

Total enforcement actions rose to 1,011, up 177 from the 834 actions in 1990, according to a report the agency submitted to Congress.

The rise is hardly surprising given the tougher regulatory exams that have followed in the wake of widespread real estate problems.

But the increase was smaller than the one at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In March, the Comptroller reported that it had completed 1,269 actions against national banks last year, up 67% from 1990.

The FDIC metes out two kinds of punishments.

The most severe category, so-called formal actions, rose 39% last year, going from 255 to 356.

In 158 of those cases, the FDIC issued cease-and-desist orders. In another 72 cases, banks lost their deposit insurance.

And the FDIC ordered the removal of 41 directors and officers at banks.

The agency took various other actions in the remainder of the cases.

The less severe penalty, called informal actions, rose to 655 from 579, or 13%.

They included 432 so-called memorandums of understanding between the banks and the agency and 223 actions by bank boards to voluntarily resolve problems or violations.

The 1989 thrift bailout law requires bank regulators to report on their enforcement activities once a year.

The reports the agencies must submit also detail how much money they've collected in fines from banks.

Fines Assessed

The FDIC said it collected $346,713 in civil money penalties in 1991.

That's up $37,251 from 1990, and up $190,963 from the $155,750 in fines paid in 1989.

Fines for late call reports shot up in 1991 to $110,265, from $62,372 the prior year, the FDIC said.

The agency has to turn the money over to the Treasury Department. In its report, the FDIC asked for legislation that would let it keep the funds.

"It is inappropriate to require the bank system to bear the increased cost of policing and then divert all monies recovered by such action to the Treasury," the FDIC said.

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