The losses suffered by uninsured depositors at American Savings Bank dramatize a need for more consumer education, regulators said on Monday.

In seizing the White Plains, N.Y., thrift last week, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. restricted payouts on deposits above the $100,000 insurance ceiling, affecting about 8,600 accounts with $119 million in uninsured deposits.

The move, a penetrating example of the government's decision to pick the lowest-cost method of resolution, was protested by Derrick Cephas, New York State's banking superintendent. He refused to comment on the reasons for his protest.

The major puzzlement about the American Savings seizure from the point of view of many other regulators and industry observers, however, was that so many depositors kept uninsured deposits at a thrift whose poor health was well publicized.

"I think it points out the need for more intensified educational effort on the part of banks and the FDIC to make sure depositors understand how deposit insurance works and what its limits are," said Alan Whitney, a spokesman for the FDIC.

Most of the depositors who will lose money because of the failure of the $3.2 billion-asset thrift are individuals and small and midsize businesses. Charitable groups and other nonprofit institutions accounted for about $2 million of the $119 million in uninsured deposits, he said.

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