WASHINGTON - The thrift industry's trade group is urging Congress to ignore the "special pleadings" of banks lobbying to reduce their share of the Savings Association Insurance Fund bailout.
In a letter sent Friday to members of the House and Senate banking committees, America's Community Bankers said banks knew what they were getting into when they bought savings and loan deposits, and therefore "cannot be given any special treatment."
Leaders of the thrift group said they've taken this stance because they fear the banks' pleas may confuse - and thus endanger - efforts to capitalize the fund.
"This is already a 10-aspirin headache for the average member of Congress," said Brian Smith, ACB's director of policy development. "One more complication and it's going to be like that movie 'Scanners' - their brains are going to explode."
So-called Oakar banks have acquired thrift deposits since 1989, when the thrift fund was created. These banks pay premiums into the thrift fund based on the amount of deposits acquired. The figure is increased regularly to reflect a bank's total deposit growth.
The banks will continue to pay the higher thrift premium on these funds and, under a plan under consideration in Congress, would join thrifts in paying 85 cents on every $100 of thrift deposits to rebuild the insurance fund.
Two groups consisting of 23 Oakar banks wrote to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last month, arguing that since many of the thrift deposits they bought have run off, their contribution should be shaved at least 25%.
Oakar banks hold 23% of the deposits insured by the fund, so their argument could have a big impact on who pays for the rescue.
The thrift trade group is not buying their reasoning.
"Oakar banks bought their SAIF deposits in competitive auctions and fully understood the risks, opportunities, and obligations," wrote Randy McFarlane, ACB director of government relations, in the letter to lawmakers. "Their bids were based on some deposit runoff."
The banks have always had the option of switching their thrift deposits to the Bank Insurance Fund - as long as they paid entrance and exit fees that currently total 185 basis points.
Those fees, ACB officials argued, were and are a clear sign that the Oakar banks would at some point have to pay a premium to get clear of the savings insurance fund's troubles.
"Any ignorance was culpable ignorance," said Mr. Smith. "They knew that there were these strings attached."