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Office of Thrift Supervision

ots institutions regulations federal

The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) was established as a bureau of the TREASURY DEPARTMENT in August 1989 as part of a major REORGANIZATION PLAN of the thrift regulatory structure mandated by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) (12 U.S.C.A. § 1462a). The reorganization resulted from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, when a newly deregulated thrift industry invested in high-risk real estate ventures, many of which collapsed. This situation led to enormous financial losses and the call for more federal regulation and oversight.

The OTS is authorized to charter federal thrift institutions and to serve as the primary regulator of the 1,700 federal- and state-chartered thrifts that belong to the Savings Association Insurance Fund. Its purpose is to maintain the safety, soundness, and viability of the thrift industry by adopting regulations that seek to prevent unreasonable lending risks, examining and supervising thrift institutions, and enforcing compliance with federal laws and regulations. In addition to overseeing thrift institutions, the OTS also oversees companies that own thrifts and controls the acquisition of thrifts by such holding companies.

The OTS is organized into five main divisions. The Washington Operations Office develops national policy guidelines to clarify and implement statutes and regulations and establishes programs to implement new policies and laws. This division monitors the condition of the thrift industry and attempts to identify emerging supervisory problem areas.

The Regional Operations division examines and supervises thrift institutions through five regional offices located in Jersey City, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco. These offices also promote housing and other financial services in areas with the greatest need. The regional offices oversee the training and development of federal thrift regulators through accredited programs.

The Chief Counsel division provides a full range of legal services to the OTS, including drafting regulations, representing the agency in court, and taking enforcement actions against savings institutions that violate laws or regulations.

The staff of the Congressional Affairs division interacts with members of Congress, congressional staff, and committee members to accomplish the legislative objectives of the OTS. This division provides information to Congress about the office's supervisory, regulatory, and enforcement activities.

The Public Affairs division disseminates information, including policies, regulations, and key developments within the office. It also maintains an archive of business records and documented actions of the OTS and its predecessor, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

The OTS uses no tax money to fund its regulation. Its expenses are met through fees and assessments on the thrift institutions it regulates. The OTS is headed by a director appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve a five-year term.

Since 1999 the OTS has filed annual performance reports, and in 2000 it prepared a strategic report for 2000-2005. Since the late 1990s it has expanded its Web site, offering consumers information on the stability of the thrift institutions it regulates. In addition since 2001 it has prepared regulations in "plain English" to reduce confusion.

FURTHER READINGS

Office of Thrift Supervision. Available online at <www.ots.treas.gov> (accessed August 1, 2003).

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 2003).

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