WASHINGTON - The nation's banking commissioners unveiled a plan Monday that would allow state-chartered institutions to take advantage of last year's branching law while dealing with a single regulator.

The protocol, developed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, represents an effort by the commissioners to compete with the national bank charter after the interstate rules take effect.

"National banks operating across state lines deal with one regulator," said John L. Bley, director of financial institutions in Washington State and chairman of a task force that developed the plan. "We want to make sure that no bank feels that it must be a national bank to take advantage of interstate branching."

The plan was approved by 45 of the nation's state banking departments at the CSBS annual convention last month.

However, its success hinges on the willingness of state legislatures to enact enabling legislation. Of crucial importance are laws permitting joint examinations and coordination across state borders.

Seven states already have some provisions in their laws, while seven have pending legislation.

Under the plan, an institution's home state regulator would have primary responsibility for conducting safety-and-soundness and compliance examinations, but would coordinate them with host states and federal authorities.

To ensure compliance with laws in other jurisdictions, the home state regulator would use the examiners from those other states, who must inform home state regulators of any violations and coordinate enforcement actions with them.

The plan calls for the home states to share examination information and reports with both host state and federal regulators.

The home state will have full authority over applications for new branches, bank powers, and mergers and will follow its own laws on investment and corporate governance issues. But it must analyze the antitrust impacts of any decision on hosts states, consider a bank's past compliance with host state laws, and consult with other regulators before approving any actions in other states.

Details of a new fee structure must still be worked out to reflect the new roles of each state in the supervisory process.

Temporarily, each state will bill the bank directly, but the home state will tally all the fees for each bank to ensure that the total charge is fair and reflects the cost of the examination."

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