The World Wide Web site of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is to on-line design what Mies van der Rohe buildings were to architecture: It's stark, simple, and utterly without frills, but it gets the job done.
For on-line pleasure seekers, the Web site isn't much: The most esoteric item is a list of the 27 comptrollers since 1863. But bankers and other interested parties should benefit from a collection of information on the agency's current regulatory actions.
Users can view the complete text of the agency's proposed banking regulations, and also can download recent OCC bulletins, alerts for fraudulent banking activities, and advisory letters.
The Comptroller's office plans to expand the Web site to include its most recent Community Reinvestment Act evaluations, said Ellen Stockdale, who is coordinating the project. But this won't happen for at least another six months because it takes time to get paper-copy reports on-line, Ms. Stockdale said.
"Our goal with the CRA evaluations is to collect them all in electronic form and put them up on the Web," Ms. Stockdale said. "Right now, we don't get the evaluations electronically, so it makes it kind of hard."
With this information on-line - along with all the electronically received public comments on banks' CRA efforts - the Web site will be especially useful to bankers, said Karen Thomas, director of regulatory affairs for the Independent Bankers Association of America.
"I think it will make it very easy for bankers to get info quickly, to get their hands on things they need to look at," Ms. Thomas said. "This is the wave of the future."
Other federal regulatory agencies have been getting on the Web, at varying paces and with varying success. The OCC's site is far more advanced than that of the Office of Thrift Supervision, which consists of nothing but a mission statement and biographical information on acting Director Jonathan L. Fiechter. But the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve System each have older, more complete on-line systems with vast amounts of public information.
The Federal Reserve Board has no central Web "home page," but a Web- accessible "gopher" archive contains a huge quantity of Fed reports, including those on the money supply, reserves of depository institutions, and others.
Seven of the 12 Federal Reserve banks also have their own Web sites, which provide access to the Fed's economic research and statistical releases.
The FDIC Web home page provides access to the agency's recent semi- annual reports to Congress, and hooks into several gopher sites. Viewers can browse through the FDIC's chronology and bibliography of the S&L crisis, and download individual and aggregate data on FDIC-insured banks.
Mr. Duchemin writes for Medill News Service