The Independent Bankers Association of America has decided to swallow hard and endorse Congress' plan to shore up the Savings Association Insurance Fund.

The legislative fix would require banks to pay 75% of the roughly $800 million due every year on Financing Corp. bonds. In return for this help, thrifts would pay a one-time fee raising $6 billion to rebuild their insurance fund.

"IBAA is concerned about a loss-loss scenario under which bankers would pick up not only the tab for Fico but also the tab for recapitalizing the SAIF," explained Kenneth A. Guenther, the group's executive vice president.

Mr. Guenther said IBAA is worried thrifts will pull their $6 billion off the table and simply shift deposits to the lower-cost Bank Insurance Fund, causing a de facto merger of the funds.

"That's the message that privately has been passed to IBAA's leadership by Chairman (Ricki) Helfer and Chairman (Alan) Greenspan," Mr. Guenther said of the heads of the FDIC and Federal Reserve.

The regulators have been telling the American Bankers Association the same thing, but no one there is buying it.

"It is a terrible mistake for any bank trade association to capitulate on the Fico issue," said Edward L. Yingling, ABA's executive director of government relations. "To give up without a fight is just absolutely the wrong approach to take."

IBAA may be giving up, but it's still fighting.

"If the decision has been made at the highest political levels that something is going to be done because the Republicans want this S&L problem off their plate, we are lobbying the secondary issues," Mr. Guenther said.

Those issues include a rebate of $500 million in premiums paid in 1995 and saving another $500 million by delaying for 10 months the industry's Fico payment. Eschewing these battles, ABA has been pushing for comprehensive legislation that would combine the bank and thrift charters.

The rescue's best chance for passage is coming next week as Congress votes on its last budget bill for 1996. Clinton administration officials and banking regulators are angling to attach it to this "continuing resolution," which must be voted on by April 24 to fund the government through September.

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