is down to what its managers think is about the right staff size. The problem is, people keep leaving. The departures so far have not amounted to an exodus. But they have involved skilled staffers - mostly compliance examiners - whose replacements will take years to train. And acting OTS director Jonathan Fiechter said he fears he will keep losing employees until Congress clears up his agency's fate. "If it is the will of the Congress that we go from four federal banking agencies to three federal banking agencies, then I think they have an obligation to make that decision in a straightforward fashion," he said. "I think if you debate it for several years, that makes it far more difficult for those of us in senior management to keep the agency running smoothly." The most sorely felt recent losses have been seven examiners - four from the thrift regulator's San Francisco office and three from its Chicago office - who specialized in Community Reinvestment Act and other compliance work. All have left for similar jobs with the Federal Reserve System. "It's a little perverse for the Fed, in light of their resources, to use us as a training ground," Mr. Fiechter said. "If I had my druthers, they would recruit and train, and we would hire." However, in light of "the certainty of a career at the Fed, versus the uncertainty of OTS," Mr. Fiechter added, "it's very difficult for the people in charge of them to say, Oh, why would you go to the Federal Reserve when you could stay here?" At the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, spokesman Robert Fienberg acknowledged that the bank had hired OTS staffers, but said it isn't targeting the agency. "We are recruiting examiners, but we're recruiting them from all over," he said. The OTS, which replaced the Federal Home Loan Bank Board as regulator of the then troubled thrift industry in 1989, hit a peak of 3,442 employees in March 1990. It now has a staff of 1,477 - about one person for every institution it regulates. The agency and the thrift industry are now in excellent financial shape, Mr. Fiechter said. But as part of plans to rescue the undercapitalized Savings Association Insurance Fund, Congress is considering doing away with the thrift charter - and the thrift regulator. Mr. Fiechter has recommended merging OTS with one of the banking agencies. But he said legislation passed by the House Banking Committee - which calls for abolition of the thrift regulator within two years and provides no job guarantees for its employees - has made it hard for him to persuade staffers to stay on. What's kept losses small so far, he said, "is that the other agencies, with the exception of the Fed in compliance, have not been out there hiring."

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