WASHINGTON - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., attempting to cut expenses by trimming its staff, is facing unprecedented upheaval.

In addition to losing key policymakers here, five of the FDIC's eight regional directors are turning over. Three of the five directors are taking advantage of incentives designed to lure employees out the door.

Regional directors Kenneth L. Walker in Dallas, James O. Leese in Kansas City, and Paul Wiechman in Boston are all taking the agency buyout offer of six months of salary and six months of health benefits.

The FDIC is hoping 500 employees will leave. By Friday, 237 people had signed up for the Dec. 31 buyouts. Another round of incentives will result in a second wave of departures in March.

In addition to the departing regional directors, Simona L. Frank, who runs the FDIC's Chicago office, is moving to Washington as an associate director in the supervision division. She is replacing Michael Hovan who was reassigned from supervision to the FDIC's administration division.

New York regional director Nick Ketcha this week will be named director of the FDIC's supervision division, a position he has held on an acting basis since June. Michael J. Zamorski will move up from the deputy spot to run the New York office. Mr. Ketcha plans to commute from New York where his family still lives.

The regional directors are making their exits in late February or early March, Mr. Ketcha said. "For an orderly transition, I asked them to stay until their replacements are in place," he said.

Asked if he's ever seen such turnover, Mr. Ketcha said: "Not in my 30 years" at the FDIC. "But I know we have a lot of good people behind" the retiring regional directors.

The FDIC's Washington headquarters is being hard hit by departures as well.

John W. Stone, a 30-year agency veteran who rose to executive director of supervision and resolution, retired this month. Robert Hartheimer, director of resolutions, is leaving Dec. 29. He will join Friedman, Billings & Ramsey, a boutique investment bank here, as a managing director in mid-January. His replacement has not been named yet.

Robert Miailovich, associate director of policy, is taking the buyout and will leave in April. Cary H. Hiner, now assistant policy director, is slated to take his place.

FDIC spokesman Alan Whitney also is retiring Jan. 2 after 17 years with the agency. "There's no question a lot of institutional memory is walking out the door," he said. "Anytime an agency goes through downsizing ... there's a certain amount of upheaval."

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