The Bush administration wants to raise deposit insurance fees for reckless banks and limit how many insured accounts a depositor may have, a senior Treasury Department official said yesterday.
Treasury Undersecretary Robert R. Glauber also suggested that the administration may seek to force banks to conduct commercial real estate lending through separate affiliates that would not use insured deposits.
Glauber's comments came in a progress report to the Senate Banking Committee on an uncompleted study by his department that is intended to serve as the starting point for a major overhaul of the financial system next year.
He said the administration favors charging banks that make risky loans or operate with low capital more for insurance than conservatively run banks. Glauber said the Treasury is "closely examining" proposals that would combine government deposit insurance with private insurance to provide guidance for setting premium levels.
The administration also favors limiting the number of insured accounts per depositor. Depositors can now insure far more than the $100,000 per account limit by dividing their money among several institutions or among single, joint and trust accounts at a single institution.
Among other "particularly attractive" options, Glauber said, are requiring the owners of banking companies that wish to expand into areas such as securities writing and insurance to increase their capital investment in their companies, and giving federal regulators the power to curb risky bank activities permitted under some state laws.
Glauber steered clear of the most delicate deposit insurance issue -- how to discourage regulators from protecting all deposits in large banks, even those over the insurance limit.
Meanwhile, Glauber and Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.), the banking committee chairman, called for passage of a stopgap deposit bill before Congress adjourns for the year early next month.
Three similar measures -- one passed by the House last week, one in the Senate sponsored by Riegle and a third offered by the administration -- would remove the limits on how much the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may charge banks for deposit insurance.
The FDIC is expected today to raise its premium by the maximum now allowed by law, from 12 cents per $100 of deposits to 19.5 cents.
The bank insurance fund is expected to suffer a third consecutive loss this year, bringing its reserves to a historic low of 58 cents for every $100 in deposits. A reserve of $1.25 per $100 is considered the minimum safe level.