WASHINGTON - The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency expects to spend about $2.7 million to cut about 4% of its 3,000 employees nationwide this year.

The OCC offered buyout and early retirement packages last month in an across-the-board staff-cutting move to boost efficiency and save $8.5 million next year.

"This Comptroller feels there is some excess staffing in the agency, and we ought to bring it down to appropriate levels," an agency spokesman said. "We are at the mercy of the market - banks can switch charters - so we have market discipline upon us. We have a responsibility to our banks to make sure we are operating as efficiently as possible."

About 129 employees at all levels and in nearly all divisions, aside from examiners, were offered six months' salary and health benefits to leave. Those over age 50, with at least 20 years of federal government service, were offered full retirement packages.

The agency did not make any buyout or early retirement offers to its 2,000 examiners. In fact, it plans to add 40 supervisors by the end of the year, the spokesman said.

The OCC's last downsizing was in 1997, when it cut 324 employees.

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