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Smaller Banks Resist Federal Cash Infusions
But both the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America said that they knew of few banks that planned to participate.
"I'm not sure we've heard from any that want to participate," said Karen Thomas, vice president for government relations at the community bankers group, which represents about 5,000 banks. "That said, if any community banks do enroll, we anticipate it will be just a small minority."
Federal regulators said they did expect some banks to volunteer, though none stepped forward yesterday. But they added that they would not rely on volunteers. Treasury will set standards for deciding which banks can be helped, and the regulatory agencies will triage the banks they oversee: The institutions faring best and worst will not receive investments. The institutions in the middle, whose fortunes could be improved by putting a little more money in the bank, will be pushed to accept the money from the government.
"We will encourage institutions to apply," said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who oversees most of the nation's largest banks.
In return for its investments, Treasury will receive preferred shares of bank stock that pay 5 percent interest for up to five years. After that, if the companies haven't repaid the government's initial investment, the interest rate goes up to 9 percent.
Participating banks cannot increase the dividends they pay to shareholders without federal permission, they must accept some limitations on compensation for their executives, and Paulson said the government would press companies to limit mortgage foreclosures.
The government decided not to impose an explicit requirement that banks use their taxpayer dollars to increase lending. But regulators said they will watch banks closely. They also noted that banks have less reason to hoard money now that they can borrow more easily. Most important, however, they said, banks want to make money.
"And the way that banks make money is by lending," Dugan said.
Also yesterday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said it will create, essentially, two new insurance programs.
The basic insurance program still guarantees all bank deposits up to $250,000. A new supplemental program guarantees all deposits above $250,000 in accounts that don't pay interest. The program basically covers accounts used by small businesses.
Some European governments had already guaranteed deposits, creating a competitive advantage for banks in those countries. Banking regulators also were concerned that small businesses were transferring deposits from community banks to larger institutions perceived as less likely to fail. Finally, small businesses contributed to the failure of Washington Mutual and the collapse of Wachovia by pulling uninsured deposits from those banks.
The FDIC estimates that this new guarantee could cover up to $500 billion in deposits. Banks that sign up for the insurance -- and bankers agree that everyone will participate, for fear of ceding an advantage to rivals -- will pay a premium of 10 cents on every $100 in deposits.