It appears the administration may have been a little worried about the release of its Community Reinvestment Act reform last week.
While the plan had been slated to be unveiled at the FDIC meeting on Thursday, the White House decided at the last minute to hold a press conference with Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and White House economic adviser Robert Rubin in attendance the day before.
The motive? To put the weight of the President behind the proposal and to preempt any boisterous opposition from the Fed, which approved the plan on Friday, sources said.
And a number of activists and industry representatives around town said they received personal calls from Comptroller Eugene A. Ludwig threatening, begging, or cajoling them (depending on whom you ask) to sing praises about the plan upon its release.
But the usually low-key Fed put out a few calls on its own last week. Sources said a number of reporters got calls from Fed spokesman Joseph Coyne urging them to attend Friday's Fed meeting, where the governors blasted the plan.
Fed Govemor Sugan M. Phillips lashed out at the administration's proposal to consolidate bank regulatory agencies last week, warning that the Treasury plan would impair the conduct of monetary policy.
Conducting monetary policy would be difficult, she said, if the central bank did not have intimate knowledge of the banking system. In addition, she said, the Fed would be in a poor position to foresee and deal with financial crises if it did not have a regulatory role.
Finally, Ms. Phillips said that a single agency would probably be too large to be an effective and responsive regulator.
"You are going to be hearing more about this from the Federal Reserve," she warned in a speech.
Kenneth Guenther, the executive vice president of the Independent Bankers of America, and banking consultants Bert Ely and William Isaac all have something in common.
They celebrate birthdays in December. Mr. Guenther was born on Dec. 1, 1935; Mr. Ely on Dec. 2, 1941; and Mr. Isaac on Dec. 21, 1943, according to a the new, 669-page Washington Almanac.
The book, which profiles 400 "movers and shakers," was compiled by Lawrence J. Haas, a former reporter for the Bond Buyer, a sister publication of American Banker.