WASHINGTON — An international regulator group is hoping to finalize guidelines this week that could help countries set up standardized deposit insurance systems.
The International Association of Deposit Insurers is also hoping to use a three-day meeting, hosted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to deal with issues on how the global financial crisis has affected such systems.
Topics expected to come up include whether to raise or waive limits on insurance coverage, as the United States has done, whether to expand coverage to other types of products, such as credit derivatives, and whether to expand coverage to keep customers from fleeing to more secure money market funds.
The meeting, which will start Wednesday and will include representatives from roughly 60 governments, will focus primarily on finalizing proposed guidelines issued in February. The guidelines outlined principles needed for deposit insurance systems, including making a single government body accountable for the system and making participation compulsory.
"One of the lessons coming out of this crisis is the importance of having an established framework of deposit insurance and bank resolutions in place to cope with and try to respond to a crisis such as this," FDIC Vice Chairman Martin Gruenberg, the international association's president, said in an interview Monday. "Trying to do it off the cuff without having a legal framework and institutions in place to deal with it is not a very effective way to respond and only tends to exacerbate the problems."
He cited the example of the United Kingdom, which had a narrow deposit insurance system but was driven to cover all depositors at Northern Rock PLC after the lender hit trouble last year.
"When Northern Rock got into difficulty," the British government "literally didn't have a public authority to close Northern Rock and resolve it in an orderly way," Mr. Gruenberg said. "As a result of that experience, the U.K. is now in the process of reforming both its deposit insurance system and establishing a public authority for bank resolution, as well, tied to that system of deposit insurance."
The United States has already used deposit insurance in two ways to combat the housing crisis. The massive rescue bill enacted Oct. 3 temporarily raised the deposit insurance limit for banks and credit unions to $250,000. Then, on Oct. 14, the FDIC guaranteed all deposits that do not bear interest.
The importance of coordinating actions internationally has also been underscored. Michael Barr, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, said the United States was forced to back unsecured bank debt this month after Great Britain and other European nations did so.
"Once the U.K. did that, then our banks would be at a competitive disadvantage," said Prof. Barr, a former special assistant to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. "There was some concern that there would be significant capital flight if the U.S. didn't step in."
Other participants said it may be difficult for nations to undertake any long-term project to create or bolster a deposit insurance system, since the turmoil has made the future so uncertain.
"You don't rewrite rules in crisis periods, because there's going to be a lot of ad hockery," said George Kaufman, a scheduled panelist and finance professor at Loyola University Chicago.