ATLANTA — NetBank is to announce today that the Office of Thrift Supervision has approved its 2001 community reinvestment plan, an approval that could pave the way for standards-setting at other banks that operate exclusively or almost exclusively online.

These institutions have struggled to comply with the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to invest in the localities in which they do business. A strict interpretation of the law could overburden Internet banks, many of which have customers across the country.

NetBank was established in 1996 and has one walk-in branch, at its headquarters here, “but we operate on a national basis and we wanted our CRA program to be national,” said D.R. Grimes, its chief executive officer.

For CRA purposes, NetBank defined its community as the regions where it does the most business: Atlanta, California, and Florida. As of Aug. 31, 14.7% of its deposits came from California, 12.2% from Georgia, and 12% from Florida. The bank generated 16.8% of its loans in California, 14% in Florida, and 7.5% in Georgia.

This year NetBank plans to originate or purchase $20 million of loans in Atlanta, including $8 million to $16 million of community development loans; $100 million of loans in California, with a maximum of $20 million in community development; and $50 million of loans in Florida, with a maximum of $10 million in community development.

The company submitted its plan in November for approval by Jan. 1. NetBank says it received OTS approval on Thursday. “It took longer than we expected, but in fairness there haven’t been many strategic plans submitted,” Mr. Grimes said.

NetBank will submit a similar plan this year to cover its 2002 CRA requirements.

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