WASHINGTON - Mounting a late-hour offensive, 36 bank chief executives have appealed to Speaker Newt Gingrich to strip objectionable provisions from a legislative package that would repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and ease the industry's regulatory burden.

An Oct. 11 letter signed by the bankers, who included Roger L. Fitzsimonds, chairman and CEO of Firstar Corp., and Keycorp CEO Robert W. Gillespie, criticizes the measure because it blocks new insurance powers for banks and restricts their ability to sell securities. In the letter to all House members, the CEOs called the current proposal "anticonsumer, protectionist legislation" that would "turn the clock backwards on true bank modernization."

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