To reduce industry paperwork, banking regulators have proposed a uniform application for bank mergers.

The plan, announced Thursday, is intended to make it easier for institutions to apply for mergers that require approval from more than one agency.

"This will be a welcome change," said James D. McLaughlin, director of regulatory and trust affairs at the American Bankers Association.

"It's been a real chore for bankers and their lawyers to fill out separate forms for essentially the same information."

"We can eliminate a lot of unnecessary burden and expense," said Juliana Schulte O'Reilly, a lawyer who handles merger applications in the Washington office of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti. "A filing to one agency can fill five or six binders."

In addition, institutions would not have to submit some currently required information such as quarterly call reports because regulators already have these data on hand.

Under the proposal, banks would no longer be required to give information on executive employment contracts and compensation or on benefits that company officials would get through the merger.

Also, applicants would not be required to list competing institutions, information on their trust services, or their merger histories.

"We want to eliminate a lot of very specific questions that are not relevant to the regulatory decision," said Jim Leitner, examination specialist at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The agencies would retain the right to ask for additional information on a case-by-case basis.

Comments on the proposal are due March 23.

Separately, banking and thrift regulators last week approved revisions in 1998 call reports, streamlining reporting requirements on preferred deposits, securitized auto loans, unrated industrial development bonds, and some trading activities.

Regulators also withdrew two proposed additions to the reports that the banking industry had opposed. They would have required banks to report on the amount of transactions between affiliates and information on mortgage- backed securities that are deemed highly volatile in price.

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