WASHINGTON --The Office or Thrift Supervision said Friday it wEll focus its entorcement efforts on live institutions - and leave it for the Resolution Trust Corp. to deal with failed thrifts.

The change was contained in the agency's new enforcement policy, which was announced on Friday.

Under acting directer Jonathan L. Fiechter, the OTS will generally not take formal enforcement action against healthy institutions. However, for thrifts with MARCO ratings of 4 to 5 - the lowest scores - "there is a presumption formal enforcement action is warranted," according to the new standards.

THe agency said it is the industry, not the regulators, that is changing, and that the new policy is really a compilation of policy that have been evolving as thrifts have become healthier.

In the 1980s, "People were in there lotting institutions... and were using them as their own private piggy banks," acting chief counsel Carolyn Lieberman said.

'Weeded Out the Bad Guys'

But now, "It is a different industry out there," Ms. Lieberman said. "We think we have weeded out the bad guys."

The policy changes won praise from the thrift trade group.

"We think it is a very positive step," said Randy McFarlane, a lawyer in the government relations department of the Savings and Community Bankers of America. "It represents a logical focus of limited agency resources on preserving the health of the industry."

In the future, the OTS will reply on the Resolution Trust Corp. and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to take action against directors, officers, accountants, and lawyers at failed thrifts.

"We still have some big cases in the works," said Ms. Lieberman. But because the industry's health has improved, new cases being brought "are not the big, sexy cases we used to have."

No Obstacle

Nevertheless, Ms. Lieberman said, the new enforcement policy will not impede the agency's ability to bring future cases.

"It is not that we are changing the standards," on deciding when to take action, Ms. Lieberman said. "I don't think soomeone should look at this and believe they have escaped a reckoning with us.

"The whole agency has been downsizing," because the industry has strunk and more thrifts have left the OTS, Ms. Lieberman said. "It certainly makes you focus on how yoju are using your resources."

Changing Focus

Partly as a result of that pressure, the agency has shifted its enforcement focus.

"They have a resources problem over there," SCBA's Mr. McFarlane said.

"The OTS now has fewer institutions under its jurisdiction and a staff that was beefed up" for the wave of work in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "They are having to come to terms with those resources constraints," he said.

"If we had to decide between taking an action an open institution rather than a closed institution," the OTS would pursue the open institution, Ms. Lieberman said.

Under the new OTS guidelines, contained in the OTS' Regulatory Bulletin 18-lb, the agency will still take formal action against a thrift for "significant violations," no matter what the institution's health.

Such violations might include uncorrected compliances prolems such as lending discrimination violations of securities laws, uncorrected supervisory proplems, insider abuse, and other safety and soundless violations, according to the new guidelines.

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