WASHINGTON – Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair said Tuesday her agency might have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to see it through an expected wave of bank failures.
Ms. Bair said the borrowing could be needed to cover short-term cash-flow pressures caused by reimbursing depositors immediately after the failure of a bank. The borrowed money would be repaid once the assets of that failed bank are sold.
The last time the FDIC borrowed funds from Treasury came at the tail end of the savings-and-loan crisis in the early 1990s after thousands of banks were shuttered. That the agency is considering the option again, after the collapse of just nine banks this year, illustrates the concern among Washington regulators about the weakness of the U.S. banking system in the wake of the credit crisis.
"I would not rule out the possibility that at some point we may need to tap into [short-term] lines of credit with the Treasury for working capital, not to cover our losses, but just for short-term liquidity purposes," Ms. Bair said in an interview. Ms. Bair said such a scenario was unlikely in the "near term."
She said she did not expect the FDIC to take the more dramatic step of tapping a separate $30 billion credit line with Treasury, which has never been used.
The FDIC said Tuesday its "problem" list of banks at risk of failure had grown to 117 at the end of June, compared with 90 at the end of March.