FDIC boosts staff, eyes possible bank failures-WSJ

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp plans to hire as many as 138 new workers to address the potential for rising bank failures, the Wall Street Journal said in its March 26 edition.

An agency spokesman said the FDIC plans to boost the number of workers in its Division of Resolutions & Receiverships to as many as 380 from the current 223, the newspaper said.

The division is authorized to have 242 workers, so hiring may involve 138 new positions, of which half will be temporary, it said.

Last month, speaking at the Reuters Regulation Summit in Washington, D.C., FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said she expected bank failures to rise, but mainly among smaller institutions.

The FDIC is also hiring because of the expected retirement of some employees, the newspaper said.

At year-end, the agency had put 76 FDIC-insured banks with $22.2 billion of assets on its “problem list,” up from 65 institutions with $18.5 billion of assets at the end of the third quarter.

Only five U.S. banks have failed since 2004, including two this year. Analysts have predicted the failure rate will grow as losses from soured mortgages and other loans mount, and as regulators crack down on lenders that take too much risk.

There are 8,535 banking institutions insured by the FDIC. Of these, 7,266 are commercial banks, 1,258 are thrifts and 11 are U.S. branches of foreign banks.

More than 2,000 banks nationwide failed in the decade ending in 1992, encompassing the heart of the savings-and-loan crisis. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)