The Carter administration has shelved its plans to draft special profit standards for banks under the new wage-price guidelines program begun last October.
The decision, which follows weeks of internal discussions, came after officials apparently concluded there was no way to apply meaningful restrictions on banks without distorting credit flows.
The move is expected to spark some controversy. Many banks are reaping sizable profits this year. The Council on Wage and Price Stability, which administers the program, had indicated earlier it would issue special standards.
The council published a statement yesterday saying it has "not completed" its review of the issue and will not act finally until then. In the meantime, it said banks would not have to file reports required of other firms.
However, other officials said they saw little real likelihood that the administration will be able to come up with any sort of stringent bank guidelines under present federal regulations governing the industry.
Barry P. Bosworth, director of the wage-price council, has blamed the difficulty in part on the Federal Reserve Board's longstanding Regulation Q, which limits the interest that banks may pay on savings and time deposits.
The council said yesterday the two primary ways it could ask banks to limit their profit margins would be to pay higher interest on deposits or to cut their lending rates.
The first course would be "prevented by" Regulation Q, the council said, while the second "could cause disruption of credit markets, and is directly contrary to Federal Reserve Board monetary policy. That is the crux of the problem."
The stalemate has resulted despite weeks of negotiations between the White House and the major bank regulatory agencies over what, if anything, to do about Regulation Q.
An interagency task force is looking into the status of Regulation Q, but few observers believe there will be any basic changes. Several key officials regard the fate of Regulation Q as a separate issue.
Officials said yesterday they effectively decided to shelve plans to issue bank profit guidelines after it became clear that any standards likely to prove workable under existing regulations probably would be "only cosmetic."
The administration has been under pressure from liberals to impose tight limits on banks under the program. The agency still is working on special standards to apply to utilities, but has not set a date for publishing them.