BANKERS GROUP BATTLES WHITE HOUSE PENALTY PROPOSAL

A trade association representing banks is accusing the Bush administration of overkill in proposing civil fines up to $1 million a day for institutions that recklessly violate regulations. Ed Yingling of the American Bankers Association said the fines would be ``wholly disproportionate'' and would inhibit the ability of banks and savings institutions to get quality managers and directors.

President Bush is proposing a top fine of $25,000 a day for most violations but up to $1 million if the violation was made with reckless disregard for the safety of the institution. Mr. Yingling said the maximum penalty should be set at $2,500.

But at a House Banking subcommittee meeting last week, Joe D. Whitley, acting associate attorney general, told the banking subcommittee that financial institution cases have overloaded the criminal justice system. A survey of FBI field offices showed more than 8,000 pending cases, half of them involving losses of $100,000 or more.

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