A Short List for Comptroller's Post

There is a lot of speculation about the refusal of the Senate Banking Committee to confirm Robert L. Clarke for a second term as comptroller of the currency.

Regardless of one's view of the propriety of that action, the condition of the banking industry demands that President Bush move quickly to nominate another person to head the Comptroller's office.

The relative speed with which the Senate acted on the nomination of William Taylor to be chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. indicates that a respected career official would be viewed favorably by the majority of the banking committee.

Policy of Judgment Calls

There is already speculation that the bank examiners in the field will read the Senate Banking Committee vote as blaming Mr. Clarke for being too lax. Meanwhile, various congressmen have criticized him both for being too tough and for not being tough enough.

The administration wants the examiners to cut the banks a little slack, to stop examining by the book, and to use their experience and judgment more. For that to happen, the comptroller will have to be trusted by the examiners to stand behind them if their judgments are questioned in the glare of 20/20 hindsight.

The names of several people with many years of respected regulatory experience come to mind:

John Downey is deputy director for regional operations at the Office of Thrift Supervision. Mr. Downey previously worked as deputy comptroller and chief national bank examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. His experience at the OCC and the OTS would stand him in good stead if, as expected, the OCC and the OTS are merged.

Billy Wood, district director of the Dallas office of the OTS, is another respected financial institution supervisor with both bank and thrift regulatory experience. Mr. Wood was formerly a senior deputy comptroller at the OCC. In addition, he has worked in private industry as a banking consultant.

Paul Homan is chief executive officer of First Florida Banks Inc. He was a senior deputy comptroller with the OCC as well as an executive at Continental Illinois National Bank during its rehabilitation effort. Mr. Homan has thrift experience as former CEO of Pacific Southwest Federal Savings Bank.

Mike Mancusi is another prominent former OCC official. He is now managing director and chief operating officer at the Secura Group consulting firm in Washington. He previously was a senior deputy comptroller at the OCC.

Easy Acceptance

Any of the people mentioned above would bring supervisory experience to the comptroller's position and have the immediate respect and cooperation of the OCC staff. It is essential that the field examiners who make daily decisions affecting banks have such esteem and trust in the comptroller, especially considering the current economic condition of the nation and the industry.

Whether any of those named above would be interested in serving as comptroller of the currency is an open question, but whoever is nominated by the President should possess comparable experience and stature.

Washington is by definition a political town. However, the nomination of an experienced and respected regulator to be the next comptroller of the currency would at least lower the volume of the politics surrounding the confirmation process.

Mr. Byrd practices law in Washington.

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