Banking regulator signs off on 'living wills' for banks

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Right now, 37 banks with about $3.6 trillion in deposits must meet the new obligation, but more could be added. Any financial institution deemed to be "systemically significant" by federal regulators must also put together such a contingency plan, regardless of their size.

Institutions will be required to provide the FDIC with updated plans every year to reflect changes in its holdings and operations.

The rules are intended to avoid a repeat of the frenzied and haphazard events that ensued during the financial crisis, when some of the world's largest financial institutions began to quickly implode, threatening to take down others with them. By putting in place an organized wind down plan well in advance, regulators in theory will be able to shut down large banks without that drama.

The FDIC opted to take a staggered approach to implementing the new rules, with the largest firms expected to meet it first. Companies with more than $250 billion in nonbank assets would have to provide plans by July 1. Companies with nonbank assets between $100 billion and $250 billion would have an additional year to put together plans, while all other firms would have until the end of 2013.