WASHINGTON -- Staking out a position on several controversial issues Wednesday, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki R. Tigert said she opposes broad consolidation of the federal banking agencies.
The new FDIC chief also said that deposit insurance funds should not be used to pay for anything but agency expenses.
Ms. Tigert, who kept a low profile during her first two months as chairman, has spent the last week making news. In her first meeting with reporters Tuesday, Ms. Tigert outlined her plans to cut insurance premiums for the best banks drastically.
In a speech Wednesday to state legislators and supervisors, Ms. Tigert blasted plans to combine the regulatory agencies. The FDIC's independence is its key to protecting the deposit insurance funds, she said.
"Attempts to compromise our independence are necessarily attempts to compromise the FDIC's ability to do its job," Ms. Tigert said.
While admitting that the current regulatory structure can lead to duplication of effort and frustrating overlaps for bankers, Mr. Tigert defended the status quo.
"There are checks and balances in the current system that have served us well," she noted. "The quest for greater efficiency must preserve the independence of FDIC.
"Stripping the FDIC of the tools it needs to protect the insurance fund could have dangerous consequences."
Specifically, Ms. Tigert said the FDIC must retain the right to conduct on-site exams. At her press conference Tuesday, Ms. Tigert also noted that the FDIC will resurrect its right to examine national banks and state member banks.
Congress gave the FDIC this back-up examination authority in 1989 and expanded it in 1991. Former FDIC Chairman L. William Seidman used the power to take a look at institutions traditionally examined only by the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
The agency's acting chairman, Andrew C. Hove, was forced to back off, since a majority of the FDIC board was made up of other regulators: the comptroller and the OTS director.
But Ms. Tigert said Tuesday, "I do think the back-up examination authority needs to be used." She also urged the Clinton administration to nominate a fifth FDIC member. Once that director is on board, she noted, three of the five seats will be held by FDIC employees.
"I think it is critical that the FDIC have a majority of its own board," Ms. Tigert said.
Ms. Tigert also made clear Wednesday that she opposes using FDIC money to fund ancillary efforts, such as affordable housing programs.
"Using the insurance funds for any purpose other than insuring deposits would drain them sooner rather than later," Ms. Tigert said. "In government, there is always a funding need compelling to someone."
After her speech, Ms. Tigert was asked if the Clinton administration, which is now preparing its fiscal 1996 budget, is making any new claims on FDIC money. Ms. Tigert said no, that she only raised the issue to signal where she stands.
Last year, the administration had considered diverting some FDIC funds for affordable housing.