Safety and Soundness
During 2004, the Corporation conducted all 2,515 statutorily required safety and soundness examinations. The number and total assets of FDIC-supervised institutions identified as “problem” institutions (defined as having a composite CAMELS1 rating of “4” or “5”) decreased during 2004. As of December 31, 44 institutions with total assets of $5.3 billion were identified as problem institutions compared to 73 institutions with total assets of $8.2 billion on December 31, 2003. These changes represent a decrease of 39.7 percent and 35.4 percent, respectively, in the number and assets of problem institutions. During 2004, 57 institutions were removed from problem institution status due to composite rating upgrades, mergers, consolidations or sales, and 28 were newly identified as problem institutions. The FDIC is required to conduct follow-up examinations of all designated problem institutions within 12 months of the last examination. As of December 31, 2004, all follow-up examinations for problem institutions had been performed on schedule.
Compliance and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Examinations
The FDIC conducted 1,459 comprehensive compliance-CRA examinations, 673 compliance-only examinations2, and four CRA-only examinations in 2004, compared to 1,610 joint compliance-CRA examinations, 307 compliance-only examinations, and two CRA-only examinations in 2003. The FDIC conducted all joint and comprehensive examinations within established time frames.
As of December 31, 2004, five institutions were assigned a “4” rating for compliance, and no institutions were rated “5.” Of the
five institutions rated “4” as of December 31, 2004, four are within
the 12 month window following issuance of an enforcement action.
Of these four, two entered into Memoranda of Understanding
with the FDIC and two are subject to outstanding Cease and Desist
Orders. A Cease and Desist Order for the fifth institution will likely
be issued during the first quarter of 2005.
Examination Program Efficiencies
The FDIC continued in 2004 to implement measures to improve examination efficiency by maximizing the use of risk-focused examination procedures at well-managed banks. Based on experience with the Maximum Efficiency Risk-Focused Institution Target (MERIT) Program implemented in 2002, the FDIC raised the threshold for well-rated, well-capitalized banks qualifying for streamlined examinations under the MERIT Program to $1 billion, up from $250 million. Use of the MERIT Program allows the FDIC to direct more examination resources to institutions posing the most risks to the insurance funds. The FDIC also implemented more risk-focused examinations for the trust and information technology specialty areas. The FDIC continued to emphasize the revised compliance examination approach implemented during the second half of 2003. During 2004, the FDIC convened six focus groups with bankers across the country to discuss their experience with the revised compliance examination process. The bankers strongly supported the new process, reporting that it had resulted in a more efficient examination and that compliance examiners provided more constructive feedback than in the past.
In keeping with other recent strategic initiatives to enhance supervisory processes, the FDIC conducted a pilot program to test a new approach to bank supervision. The primary purpose of the “relationship manager program” pilot was to determine the extent to which designation of a relationship manager for each bank would enhance risk-focused assessments and improve communications with financial institutions.
The pilot explored alternatives to the traditional point-in-time examination by allowing supervisory activities to be conducted over the appropriate 12- or 18-month supervisory cycle at selected institutions, based on their risk profiles. Relationship managers developed supervisory plans for their designated banks and served as the institution's local primary point-ofcontact. Benefits of the pilot included ongoing “real time” assessments, as well as improved communications with financial institutions. Preliminary results of the pilot were favorable. Results will be further evaluated in 2005 to determine the feasibility of implementing some or all aspects of the program nationwide.
Shared National Credit Modernization
The Shared National Credit (SNC) program is an interagency effort designed to provide a review and credit quality assessment of many of the largest and most complex (syndicated) bank credits. The purpose of the program is to gain efficiencies and consistencies in the review of credits shared by multiple institutions under a formal lending agreement. The program is governed by an interagency agreement between the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
During 2004, the agencies initiated a SNC Data Collection Modernization project (SNC Modernization). The project seeks to enhance and streamline this effective supervision program by standardizing the SNC data collection system, applying more advanced credit risk analytics and benchmarking techniques across bank portfolios, and providing participating banks with feedback on their SNC portfolios across those metrics. In December, the agencies published a Notice for Public Comment in the Federal Register requesting the industry's feedback on the SNC Modernization project. The notice describes the changes to the reporting system the agencies contemplate and identifies new data elements the agencies propose to collect. In the notice, the agencies present a series of questions to elicit comment on the expanded program and to help the agencies refine the design of the expanded data collection system.
The financial sector is a critical component of the infrastructure in the United States, and the FDIC has taken a leadership role in assisting part of the financial sector in preparing for emergencies. As a member of the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC), the FDIC sponsored a series of outreach meetings in 21 cities across the United States in 2004 on Protecting the Financial Sector: A Public and Private Partnership. These meetings provided financial sector leaders with the opportunity to communicate with senior government officials, law enforcement members, and emergency management and private sector leaders about protecting the financial sector.
Bank Secrecy Act
The FDIC is also fully committed to assisting in efforts designed to thwart the inappropriate use of the banking system through activities conducted by criminals and terrorists. Our supervisory program, in conjunction with strong law enforcement efforts, creates an environment where criminals and terrorists who use the U.S. financial system to fund their operations will risk being discovered.
In September 2004, the FDIC, the other Federal banking agencies, and FinCEN entered into an information-sharing Memorandum of Understanding to enhance communication and coordination to help financial institutions identify, detect, and interdict terrorist financing and money laundering. The FDIC also issued 20 formal actions and entered into 83 informal agreements that contained provisions regarding BSA compliance.
As a member of the Association of Supervisors of Banks of the
Americas (ASBA) Strategic Planning Implementation Committee,
the FDIC helped develop specific action plans for ASBA’s 2004 –2008
strategic plan. This plan will help ASBA deliver more relevant and
timely support to its member countries. The strategic plan is
focused on ensuring ASBA member countries effectively implement
legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as bank supervisory
policies, procedures and programs that are in line with the Basel
The FDIC fulfilled 16 technical assistance missions in 2004.
Beneficiaries of these missions included Morocco, Kyrgyz Republic,
Iraq, Georgia, Russia, Jordan, Argentina, Serbia, Romania, several
countries in Latin America, and countries involved in the Partnership
for Financial Excellence Program in the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2004, the FDIC also held 51 meetings with representatives from
foreign countries. The visitors usually represented a country’s
central bank or deposit insurance agency. The most frequent visitors
were: China (7), Korea (6), Russia (4), Indonesia (3), Jamaica (3),
Taiwan (3), and Japan (3).
Financial Education and Community Development
The Corporation has worked diligently to form partnerships with financial institutions, bank trade associations, non-profit organizations, community and consumer-based groups and federal, state and local agencies to promote financial education. In 2004, the FDIC added over 200 partners to its Money Smart alliance, increasing its total to over 900 partnerships nationally. Through its Money Smart financial education program, the FDIC has provided training to an estimated 8,300 volunteer instructors, reached more than 294,000 consumers, disseminated an additional 20,000 copies of the Money Smart curriculum, and seen the establishment of more than 40,000 bank accounts. The Money Smart curriculum is available in five languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. The FDIC launched a new interactive computer-based version of Money Smart in English and Spanish in September 2004.
During 2004, the FDIC also continued to lead a Chicago-based pilot project called the New Alliance Task Force (NATF), which is focused on increasing access to bank products and services for Latino immigrants. NATF is a broad-based coalition of 63 member organizations, comprised of the Mexican Consulate, banks, community-based organizations, federal bank regulatory agencies, government agencies, and representatives from the secondary market and private mortgage insurance companies. In 2004, NATF-member banks opened 50,000 new accounts throughout the Midwest, totaling about $100 million in new deposits, with an average account balance of $2,000.
Consumer Privacy and Identity Theft
The FDIC has taken a leading role in helping banks combat identity theft. In November 2004, the FDIC published a study entitled Stop, Thief! Putting an End to Account- Hijacking Identity Theft. The study took an in-depth look at identity theft, focusing on account hijacking (the unauthorized use of deposit accounts). The study found account hijacking fraud could be significantly reduced if banks upgraded the security measures they use to authenticate customers who access their accounts remotely via computers and used specialized software to proactively detect and defend against account hijacking. The study also concluded that increased consumer education and information-sharing could reduce identity theft. The FDIC is currently investigating the most appropriate ways to follow up on the study’s findings.
The FDIC conducted a study on offshore outsourcing following Chairman Powell's March 4, 2004, testimony before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Financial Services and the Senate Banking Committee. The purpose of the study was to identify risks to consumer privacy and identity theft from foreign outsourcing. The study also identified best practices that financial institutions can use to mitigate the risk inherent in foreign outsourcing relationships.
The FDIC is one of several federal agencies charged with implementing
the provisions of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions
Act of 2003 (FACT Act), which substantially amended the Fair
Credit Reporting Act, particularly in the areas of consumer access
to and quality of credit information, privacy, and identity theft.
Consistent with the identity theft provision of the FACT Act, the
FDIC worked with other federal agencies in 2004 to propose rules
that would require banks to implement a written identity theft
protection program which includes procedures to evaluate red flags
that might indicate identity theft. The FDIC, with the other agencies,
also finalized rules requiring institutions to properly dispose
of consumer information derived from credit reports in order
to prevent identity theft and other fraud. The rules on disposal
of consumer information become effective on July 1, 2005.
Consumer Complaints and Inquiries
The FDIC investigates and responds to complaints and inquiries from consumers, financial institutions and other parties about potential violations of consumer protection and fair lending laws, as well as deposit insurance matters. The FDIC’s centralized Consumer Response Center (CRC) is responsible for investigating all types of consumer complaints about FDIC-supervised institutions and for answering inquiries about consumer protection laws and banking practices. During 2004, the FDIC received 8,804 complaints, of which 3,791 were against state-chartered nonmember banks. Approximately 41 percent of the state nonmember bank consumer complaints concerned credit card accounts, with the most frequent complaints involving loan denials, billing disputes and account errors, terms and conditions, collection practices, reporting of erroneous information, identity theft, and credit card fees and service charges. The FDIC also responded to 2,947 deposit insurance and 5,087 consumer protection inquiries from consumers and members of the banking community. The FDIC responded to over 90 percent of written complaints on a timely basis.
Deposit Insurance Education
An important part of the FDIC’s role in insuring deposits and
protecting the rights of depositors is its responsibility to ensure
that bankers and consumers have access to accurate information
about FDIC deposit insurance rules. To that end, the FDIC has
an expansive deposit insurance education program consisting
of seminars for bankers, electronic tools for calculating deposit
insurance coverage, and written and electronic information targeting
both bankers and consumers. During 2004, the FDIC completed
a digital video for bank employees and customers explaining how
FDIC deposit insurance works and issued a new edition of our
Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) for Bankers. The
video, which is available on DVD and can also be viewed through
the FDIC’s Web site, provides an overview of deposit insurance
coverage rules and requirements, with specific emphasis on the
most common account ownership categories used by individuals