Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. on Wednesday defended his agency's supervision of failed First National Bank of Keystone, W.Va., calling his examiners' efforts heroic in light of the abuse and intimidation they allegedly faced from bank officials.

"Our examiners did a thorough and very highly professional job in Keystone under extraordinarily difficult circumstances," he said in a speech to financial services executives. "They were subjected to vilification by bank officers, to really unprecedented obstruction, to attempts at intimidation, to surveillance by video cameras. ... They were shadowed by armed guards that were hired by the bank, and even their trash was searched."

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