Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig has formed a National Credit Committee to help examiners keep tabs on underwriting standards at the nation's largest banks.

In a speech to the Bankers Roundtable in Naples, Fla., set for Saturday, Mr. Ludwig was to say the agency's most experienced credit analysts are on the committee.

"We are determined never again to let a small group of outliers damage the safety and soundness or reputation of the entire industry," a copy of Mr. Ludwig's speech states.

Examiners will be checking to see if risk is being adequately figured into the pricing of loans. If excessive exceptions are being made to credit standards, examiners will want to know why, according to the comptroller's text.

Compensation policies that encourage lending officers to lower credit standards will be scrutinized, as will any significant credit concentrations.

"I want to be certain that our examiners have the information they need to do their jobs," the comptroller's speech says.

Credit standards are slipping in auto and residential lending, according to Mr. Ludwig's text. A review of credit card finance by the agency revealed that the standard minimum payment is now just 2% of outstanding balances, down from 5%.

"Almost without exception, the OCC's credit quality tracking studies have shown a slippage in credit standards."

In the same speech, Mr. Ludwig assured the bankers that his agency is not soliciting charter applications from thrifts. Great Western Bank and a number of other large thrifts want to set up banks to siphon deposits from the high-cost thrift insurance fund to the bank fund.

Thrift charter applications "are not slam dunks," the speech says. "They raise a host of complex legal, policy, and supervisory issues that we are only beginning to analyze.''

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