The industry's biggest trade group said the new insurance fees would place an extra burden on the nation's banks and thrifts, and suggested regulators could reduce the premiums if their economic assumptions end up being overly severe.
The FDIC board said the economic crisis, which has caused the insurance fund to drop to its lowest level in nearly a quarter-century, also warranted extending the plan to rebuild the insurance fund from five years to seven.
"We're taking steps today to ensure that the deposit insurance system remains sound," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said at a board meeting to vote on the changes. "These steps are necessary because banks
- and not taxpayers - are expected to fund the system."
But the head of the Office of Thrift Supervision, in his final day in that position and as one of the FDIC board members, voted against the emergency premium. John Reich said the fees would unfairly burden smaller banks that didn't contribute to the financial crisis with reckless lending.
"Taxing the banking industry with a special assessment of this magnitude, when they are already under siege, will have a negative impact on their lending capacities," Reich said.
Bair said the plan protects bank depositors - by safeguarding the fund that insures regular accounts up to $250,000. Taxpayers also are protected because it likely means the FDIC will not have to go to the Treasury Department and tap public money to replenish the insurance fund, she added.
Bair has not ruled out that possibility for a short-term loan, but said she doesn't expect to take the more drastic action of using its $30 billion long-term credit line with Treasury
- something that has never been done.
"Treasury exists for contingencies and should not be relied upon for planning purposes," Bair said Friday. "If we were to turn to taxpayers to cover fund losses, this could open up a whole new debate about the degree of government involvement in the affairs of insured banks."
The FDIC plan puts new charges on a battered industry while the Obama administration is seeking to pump as much as $750 billion in additional federal aid into ailing banks under its financial rescue plan.
The FDIC, as a regulatory agency charged with protecting the insurance fund, acts independently from the administration.
The agency's new plan includes changes to the system of assessing regular insurance premiums that officials said are designed to shift the greater burden to the banks with riskier lending practices.
The new emergency premium, to be levied on the 8,305 federally insured institutions on June 30, will be 20 cents for every $100 of their insured deposits. That compares with an average premium of 6.3 cents paid by banks and thrifts last year.
In addition, the FDIC raised the regular insurance premiums for banks to between 12 and 16 cents for every $100 in deposits starting in April, up from a range of 12 to 14 cents.
While the agency expects to collect a total of about $27 billion this year from all the fees
- compared with only $3 billion in 2008 - the new emergency premium alone is projected to bring in around $15 billion.