As House leaders are pressing for action on financial reform, the Bankers Roundtable released its prescription for change Monday.

Legislation should permit banking, securities, and insurance companies to combine freely and own limited interests in commercial businesses, the Bankers Roundtable said.

The group, which represents the nation's 125 largest banks, also said that all financial companies should be permitted the same broad powers as unitary thrift holding companies. However, it did not offer details on how this should be done.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin said Monday that financial reform is "long overdue," but sounded bearish about the prospects of passing a bill this year. "You could say the probabilities are probably not favorable," Mr. Rubin told the Institute of International Bankers.

The Treasury secretary, like the Bankers Roundtable, insisted that banks should be permitted the option of conducting financial businesses through direct operating subsidiaries. "Financial institutions should be able to choose the organizational structure that best meets their business needs," he said.

These statements came on the eve of the Wednesday deadline that Speaker Newt Gingrich has set for the warring House Banking and Commerce committees to draft a compromise bill.

The Bankers Roundtable also advised Congress to defer consideration of two other issues: paying interest on business checking accounts and reforming the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

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