The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is not gathering enough information from banks to precisely determine their readiness for year-2000 computer issues, according to a General Accounting Office report released Tuesday.
"We believe that neither the initial nor the follow-on assessment work program (undertaken by the FDIC) is collecting all the data needed to determine where the banks are in the year-2000 correction process," the GAO's Jack L. Brock told Senate Banking's financial services subcommittee. To remedy the problem, the GAO is suggesting the FDIC tell its examiners to ask banks a series of new questions.
The GAO's recommendation comes at a bad time for the FDIC, which acknowledges it got a late start in assuring the year-2000 compliance of the banks it supervises.
The FDIC is trying to meet a June 30 deadline for conducting on-site reviews of its 6,200 state-chartered nonmember banks. So far it has completed about 2,000.
Failure to resolve the year-2000 problem, which results from the inability of some older computer programs to recognize the difference between the years 1900 and 2000, could yield problems ranging from the middling to the catastrophic.Amortization tables and interest payments are just two common bank functions that could be upset by faulty software.
After the hearing, FDIC spokesman Phil Battey said the agency will incorporate the GAO's suggested questions into future on-site interviews and will convey them by phone to banks it has already examined. "We're still going to make that deadline at the end of June," he added.
Also discussed at the hearing was the issue of a "drop-dead date," or the date the FDIC plans to take action against state-chartered nonmember banks that are not moving fast enough to fix their computers.
Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, chairman of the hearing, asked Michael J. Zamorski, deputy director of the FDIC's supervision division and head of the agency's year 2000 oversight committee, whether Sept. 30 would be an appropriate drop-dead date for midsize banks.
Mr. Zamorski responded that the date seemed "early."
Internal discussions are under way to establish criteria for determining whether a bank is at risk, and what steps to take in the event those criteria are met, he said.
Possible actions, Mr. Zamorski suggested, would include termination of deposit insurance or the appointment of a receiver.