The federal banking and thrift regulators on Friday issued a final rule allowing certain healthy institutions with $500 million of assets or less to qualify for an 18-month examination cycle rather than the current 12-month cycle.

The rule, which is identical to the proposed interim rules issued in April, raises the threshold from $250 million. The rule also makes parallel changes to the regulations governing the on-site examination cycle for U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks. The final rules were mandated by Congress in last year's regulatory-relief law.

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