The American Bankers Association is creating a task force to study consumer financial privacy.

The co-chairmen will be Gene Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Comerica Inc. in Detroit, and Rudy Schupp, chairman, president, and CEO of Republic Security Bank in West Palm Beach, Fla. Charles R. Nesson, director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and the Society, will advise the group.

No word yet on the other dozen or so members, but the ABA is staffing the task force with no less than Edward L. Yingling, the group's No. 2. ABA head Donald A. Ogilvie and president Hjalma Johnson will be ex-officio members.

"We have a real opportunity as an industry to demonstrate leadership on this issue, and I believe we not only should but must," Mr. Johnson said last week.

The task force has until July to recommend improvements in the ways banks protect consumers' privacy.

The ABA is well known for its annual Christmas party, but last week the trade group celebrated an event it had awaited for years: victory on financial reform.

Mr. Johnson offered a champagne toast to the nearly 400 employees assembled in and around the group's board room, with a particular nod toward executive vice president Mr. Ogilvie and Mr. Yingling.

"Never have so many owed so much to so few," said Mr. Johnson, borrowing from Winston Churchill.

Speaking three days after President Clinton signed the bill, Mr. Johnson -- the chairman and chief executive of East Coast Bank Corp. in Dade City, Fla. -- gave an impassioned speech laced with historical references to underscore the landmark occasion.

The disaster film "Y2K: The Movie" may lead some viewers to doubt the readiness of America's banks and automated teller machines for the year-2000 date change, but Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Donna A. Tanoue has a chance to present the other side to a national television audience.

On Nov. 29, Ms. Tanoue will be one of three guests on a Y2K-themed episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Joining here will be Federal Aviation Administrator Jane F. Garvey and Energy Secretary William B. Richardson, who will offer soothing words of their own. The show was taped in Chicago on Nov. 15.

Some supporters of the new financial restructuring law -- known as S 900 in the Senate -- lobbied for it with nearly religious zeal, and that may be appropriate, according to one lobbyist.

"It's really a lot like the Bible," said John B. Chesson, senior legislative counsel for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "It's very complicated. It's very long. It's disjointed. You can read what you want into it. There's a section of S 900 that will give you whatever you want. People will tend to find that section and repeat it over and over."

But there are some distinctions, Mr. Chesson noted during a panel discussion at the American Council of Life Insurers' annual meeting last week. "The one big difference from the Bible is there is no wisdom in S.) 900," he said. "The other thing is ... with S 900, the higher authority is Congress. You make of that what you will."

No, that's not a typo above. The American Council of Life Insurance has renamed itself the American Council of Life Insurers.

The group described the change in its 23-year-old name as a "subtle, yet very important" reflection that its members are life insurance companies, which sell pensions, annuities, and many other products with combined sales that dwarf life insurance premiums.

Speaking at the ACLI's annual meeting here, president Carroll A. Campbell Jr. touted the group's lobbying muscle on financial reform and called it the trade association of the future.

But he added that "a new understanding" exists among banking, insurance, and securities organizations -- that they will have to cooperate more in the years ahead, as they did on the reform law.

Gregory A. Baer has been confirmed as assistant secretary for financial institutions at the Treasury Department. He had served as a deputy assistant secretary for two years.

Among his priorities will be helping to craft consumer privacy protection regulations mandated by the financial reform law, cooperating with the Federal Reserve Board on defining new financial activities and possibly expanding merchant banking authority, and routine troubleshooting on Capitol Hill.

The ABA is promoting Christy Walika to director of its Community Bankers Council. She starts Nov. 29, succeeding Kathleen M. Murphy, a 13-year veteran who left the group last month to head the Maryland Bankers Association. For the last six years Ms. Walika has worked in the ABA's regulatory affairs division.

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