FDIC says overwhelming majority of U.S. banks are safe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said on Sunday the vast majority of U.S. banks are safe, moving to quell any concerns bank customers may have after regulators seized IndyMac Bancorp Inc IMB.N, once one of the largest U.S. mortgage lenders.

“All bank depositors should understand that their insured deposits are safe,” Chairman Sheila Bair said. “The chance that your own bank will be taken over by the FDIC is extremely remote. And if that does happen, you will continue to have virtually uninterrupted access to your insured deposits.

“No bank depositor has ever lost a penny of insured deposits,” she added. “The overwhelming majority of banks in this country are safe and sound.”

IndyMac was seized on Friday after a bank run in which customers withdrew $1.3 billion of deposits over 11 business days, regulators said.

These withdrawals followed June 26 comments by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer questioning IndyMac’s survival prospects. They continued after IndyMac said on July 7 it would fire half its workforce and stop most mortgage lending.

Bair said she issued her statement after seeing reports on IndyMac that could cause unnecessary worry among bank depositors nationwide.

The FDIC insures deposits at 8,494 banks and thrifts. It typically insures deposits up to $100,000 per institution, and up to $250,000 on some retirement accounts.

More than 200,000 IndyMac customers had roughly $18 billion of fully-insured deposits, the FDIC said. About 10,000 customers had roughly $1 billion of potentially uninsured deposits.

The agency will reopen IndyMac’s banking unit on Monday as IndyMac Federal Bank FSB. It hopes to sell IndyMac within 90 days.

John Bovenzi, the FDIC chief operating officer, said at a press conference in Pasadena that IndyMac Federal Bank would cover insured deposits, and initially cover 50 percent of uninsured deposits.

“I want to emphasize that customers know that their insured money is safe,” he said. “Customers should just view this as a change in ownership.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles; Editing by Toni Reinhold