WASHINGTON -- The death of William Taylor could delay the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s plan to boost insurance premiums by an average of 22% next year.

The iron-willed Mr. Taylor was the driving force behind the increase, as well as the lightning rod for considerable criticism from bankers, administration officials, and some former regulators.

His absence, coupled with the recent rebound in the industry's fortunes, could delay the premium hike, observers said Thursday.

Board Meeting Put Off

The FDIC board had been scheduled to take a final vote on the plan next Tuesday. But it postponed the meeting indefinitely after Mr. Taylor was hospitalized last week.

Former FDIC Chairman L. William Seidman speculated Thursday that the premium proposal would be shelved until a new chairman is installed, which is not likely before next year.

"My guest is they'll defer the issue -- leave it where it is until they get a new chairman," he said.

The proposal called for replacing the current 23-cent, flat-rate deposit insurance premium with fees based on risk. The new premiums would average 28 cents per $100 of insured deposits, with healthy banks paying 25 cents and weak ones as much as 31 cents.

Need for Increase Disputed

Bankers have called the increase too steep in view of the lower-than-expected incidence of bank failures this year. They say the change would hurt earnings.

When the FDIC board proposed the increase in May, its vote was 3 to 2 in favor. That was unusually close. Most board votes are unanimous.

Vice Chairman Andrew C. "Skip" Hove Jr. and board member C.C. Hope backed Mr. Taylor.

But T. Timothy Ryan, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Steve Steinbrink voted against the increase, reflecting the views of the Bush administration.

Some experts said it's possible that the FDIC would opt for an increase to 27 cents because Mr. Ryan and Mr. Steinbrink both endorsed that figure at the May meeting.

Mr. Hove, who was named acting chairman Thursday would not discuss specific in an interview. But he firmly said: "I'm going to continue the chairman's office exactly as it is. The direction of the FDIC will continue exactly the same way Bill Taylor pointed it."

Mr. Hope also declined to discuss details, but he said: "I think this board is going to, in its deliberations and actions, remain true to those things that are right."

Mr. Hove is expected to serve out Mr. Taylor's term, which runs to Feb. 28, 1993.

President Bush could nominate a new chairman, but with less than two months left before Congress adjourns, it is unlikely anyone would be confirmed.

Last year's banking law made the FDIC the preeminent banking regulator.

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