WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has made it a little easier for institutions to hire employees who previously had committed insignificant crimes, the agency said Friday.

The FDIC told banks in a letter that a prospective employee who had paid less than $2,500 and spent no more than three days in jail for past offenses could be exempted from a general ban on hiring individuals with a criminal record. Before the FDIC's change, which was made in December, the allowed "de minimus" fine was $1,000 and any jail time disqualified applicants.

"Adjusting the de minimus exceptions to increase the potential fine to $2,500 and allow a limited number of days of actual jail time served for minor infractions appears just and reasonable," the FDIC said in the letter to all depository institutions.

The law generally bans hiring, without prior FDIC approval, any individual with past convictions for crimes related to dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. The ban also applies to those in certain pretrial diversion programs. But the provision — contained in Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act — allows "automatic approval", the FDIC said, for minor offenses meeting certain criteria.

The criteria includes that there was just one conviction for an offense covered by the statute; the conviction occurred at least five years prior; the crime did not involve a depository institution; and the adjusted de minimus levels for fines and jail time. There are separate criteria for cases involving the writing of "bad" checks.

"Modifications of the criteria are expected to reduce the number of Section 19 applications and regulatory burden," the FDIC said.

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