WASHINGTON - In a further attempt to crack down on bad loans, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has expanded its underwriting standards survey to include all banks the agency regulates.
The original pilot program, encompassing a few banks in 11 states, began in December 1994 as an early-warning system to detect whether banks were making loans easier to get and why.
As of Aug. 1, the program was expanded to encompass all state banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System.
The questionnaires are designed to let the FDIC know if banks are making poor loans, according to Robert Miailovich, an associate director in the FDIC's bank supervision division. "Our job is to prevent problems," he said.
Mr. Miailovich said the program will be extended.
"We're going to continue this indefinitely," Mr. Miailovich said. "This is not a one-time thing."
Lyle V. Helgerson, director of bank supervision for the FDIC's Atlanta regional office, and other regional directors said they knew little about the initial results of surveys in their areas. The questionnaires are sent directly from the examiners to the FDIC's headquarters here.
"But the preliminary reading on this is that it is a worthwhile venture," Mr. Helgerson said. "They've found it to be worth expanding."
By questioning examiners, the FDIC hoped to learn how often banks are making bad judgments, including making commercial real estate loans based on questionable cash flow projections. They also hoped to learn of any new practices that may lead to problems.
The changing standards have troubled industry officials for some time. Late last year, in a survey of the heads of the nation's top 25 banks, all but one said he believed underwriting standards were eroding.
Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan also have expressed concern that loans have become too easy to get, warning banks not to repeat mistakes made in the 1980s.