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S&LS GET NEW REGULATIONS FOR SECURITIES ACTIVITIES

Federal regulators have announced new regulations requiring savings institutions to meet more stringent standards in documenting their secu-rities activities, the latest in a series of steps to tighten supervision of the troubled industry.

The Federal Home Loan Bank Board issued amended regulations requiring S&Ls to report their securities transactions according to generally accepted accounting principles and to clearly distinguish between those securities held for sale, for trading and as investments.Paul Lockwood, a spokesman for the bank board, said S&Ls would be able to conduct the same securities transactions as in the past, "but they've got to account for (them) in a more realistic sense."

"They've been lumping them all together, which makes it very hard for auditors or for our own exam staff to get a handle on the exact financial picture," Lockwood said. "This is just one more step of a series that we've taken to tighten up the supervision of savings institutions."

A Bush administration proposal to restructure the industry and rescue depositors with money in insolvent S&Ls is working its way through Congress.

Brian Smith, director of regulatory affairs for the U.S. League of Savings Institutions, said the bank board's new rules "establish a much more stringent standard" as to when S&Ls can value securities at their higher, historical costs vs. market value, which could be lower.

S&Ls would have to hold securities "through thick or thin" to maturity in order to value them for accounting purposes at the higher level, Smith said.

The bank board's action requires an S&L's board of directors to adopt an investment policy on securities and to monitor the institution's compliance with that strategy.