Proxmire Weighs Measure Creating 2 Bank Agencies

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WASHINGTON -- Sen. William Proxmire, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, is considering introduction of a bill aimed at trimming the number of federal bank regulatory agencies from three to two.

According to an aide to the Wisconsin Democrat, interviewed Wednesday, the bill would abolish the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and divide responsibility for bank regulation between the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

In 1975, Mr. Proxmire introduced a bill to combine the three agencies into one, an idea that has been discussed for many years but has gained little support -- in part because of concerns that such a move would threaten the dual banking system.

The aide said Mr. Proxmire continues to prefer a single banking agency, but that the senator recognizes that the idea lacks sufficient support. The staffer added that Vice President George Bush's 13-member task group studying regulatory reform is considering a two-agency system and said that if this "picks up steam," Mr. Proxmire would consider offering his bill as an alternative plan for a two-agency format.

It appears that the latest proposal being considered by the Bush group would call for two regulatory agencies -- the Fed for state-chartered banks and a new banking agency for national bank regulation. The FDIC would maintain its deposit insurance functions but give up its regulatory role.

Mr. Proxmire's assistant said the senator is considering an approach that would abolish the Comptroller's office and redesign the other agencies along the following lines:

The Fed would be given the authority to decide on new powers for national banks, while the FDIC would get examination and supervision authority over them. …