Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) officials are ready to begin discussions with banks that want to sell pools of troubled real estate loans under its new Legacy Assets program, but it could be three or more months before the agency is ready to conduct the first competitive sealed bid auctions.

First FDIC intends to solicit public comments on the new program, which is designed to cleanse banks of high-risk residential mortgages and commercial real estate loans.

Although the comment period will be very short, FDIC officials want to "nail down" the structure before they begin marketing the program to private investors who will be asked to take a 50% equity position in the loan pools as part of a public-private investment fund. FDIC also has to provide private investors time for due diligence to evaluate the assets before they submit bids.

FDIC chairman Sheila Bair estimates that the Legacy Asset program could remove $500 billion in high-risk mortgages from the banking system if private investors put up $50 billion in capital.

There are "huge challenges of implementing a program of this magnitude quickly," Bair said. "We intend to move forward with this program in a methodical and a transparent fashion.

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