WASHINGTON Back-Door Approach To New Bank Powers? The Senate Banking Committee chairman, Alfonse M. D'Amato, has laid the tracks for what one bank lobbyist called "the coming train wreck." With the introduction of a bill to eliminate the thrift charter, the rancorous debate that consumed the House Banking Committee in the past few months will move to the Senate. Sen. D'Amato conceded the bill is a "starting point," listing more than a dozen major issues to be worked out. November 20 18268 In August, when the FDIC cut premiums by 84% to an average of 4.4 cents, it cited the Bank Insurance Fund's historical losses. But this month, when premiums were cut to less than half a cent, there was less talk of history and more about the 1.25% reserve ratio set by law. Graphic: 1x3 mac, p. 1 November 21 18507 The past few years' easing of lending standards "has virtually ceased," the Fed found. Banks have tightened guidelines for commercial real estate and residential mortgage lending and are less willing to make new consumer loans, according to a quarterly survey of loan officers. November 22 18556 REGIONAL BANKING Two Bankers Succumb To Another Kind of Risk Robberies aren't the only mortal dangers for bankers. Two Banc One employees, their infant daughter, and a visitor were killed Nov. 19 in their Columbus, Ohio, home. One of the slain was a customer-service rep whose sexual-harassment complaint led to the firing 14 months ago of the man now accused in the slayings. November 22 18561 First Interstate formally rejected Wells Fargo's latest, sweetened bid, while leaving an impression that the takeover battle was far from over. The target's chairman said it would have been open to a deal if a slightly higher price had been offered. Meanwhile, the bank reaffirmed its resolve to merge instead with Minneapolis' First Bank System. November 21 18513 First Bank System said Wells Fargo "overstated cost savings and understated revenue losses" that would follow if Wells won the bidding war for First Interstate. First Bank also took out full-page ads warning that a Wells buyout would "could be a disaster for California," since more than 10,000 Californians could lose their jobs. November 20 18278 COMMUNITY BANKING Nonbank Lenders Seen Making Country Inroads In farm lending, the traditional rural bank has lost market share in the past five years. Equipment manufacturers and the Farm Credit System, offering convenience and competitive rates, have made dramatic strides. Graphic: p.1 poster, agriculture bankers report card November 20 18254 Overcapitalized thrifts across the country are hoping to follow the lead of a Cincinnati institution. Enterprise Federal Bancorp cut its excess capital by handing out a taxe-free dividend of almost $3 per share. The IRS is expected to release terms of its go-ahead in December. November 21 18514 Poised to take advantage of a strong economy and an infusion of high- tech money, Oregon's community banks could be on the verge of an unprecedented period of growth. November 22 18552 Fear of the unknown and a rapidly changing marketplace are driving community bank directors back to classrooms and seminars in record numbers. The demand for training is spawning a cottage industry of consultants, according to the American Association of Bank Directors. November 22 18542 CREDIT UNIONS Members Say Offerings FallShort of Their Needs Even among their own members, credit unions have an image problem. Many take a dim view of the institutions' management skills, range of offerings, and convenience. Graphic: 2x4 mac, p. 20 November 20 18258 A sweeping review of the Credit Union National Association will reportedly proceed even without its instigator. Officials who fired trade group president Ralph Swoboda were said to have seen the project as a threat to their power. November 20 18279 The board of the National Credit Union Administration has tentatively approved a regulation that would force credit unions to take a long, hard look at potential risk before making investments. November 20 18261 CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs Cobranding Coup for Household International Household International, which rose to credit card prominence through alliances with General Motors and other cobranding partners, has bought U.S. West Communications' credit card portfolio from U.S. Bancorp of Portland, Ore. November 22 18539 If the experience in Arlington County, Va. is any indicator, Visa and MasterCard have their work cut out for them in getting local governments to accept their cards for tax payment without trying to impose surcharges. November 21 18496 American Express signed a letter of intent with MCI Communications to offer student identification cards to colleges and universities across the country. November 20 18274 INVESTMENT PRODUCTS Marketing 401(k) Plans To Tiny Businesses Stepping in where many other banks have refused to tread, the Bank of California has begun offering a 401(k) plan to businesses with as few as five employees. Graphic: 1x3 mac, p. 6 November 21 18495 Bankers Trust is refocusing its global asset management business to stave off competitors and expand distribution. "We will be looking very closely at offering more of our international products in the U.S., and in the Japanese market from our Australian unit," says Ian Martin, new head of BT's global money management group. Photo: Ian Martin, today's news, p. 1 November 20 18266 Chief executive Bridget Macaskill is determined to vault Oppenheimer Management into the mutual fund industry's big leagues. Her goal: to boost assets nearly threefold, to $100 billion, by the end of the decade. Her advice to banks that sell funds is simple: "You'd better choose the mutual fund company that's going to survive." November 22 18527 MORTGAGES Accenting the Positives In Credit Scoring Fair, Isaac & Co. has taken its credit scoring story on the road to let lenders see the process in action and to counter negative perceptions that are dogging it. November 20 18271 Refinancing continues to be strong, as interest rates remain low. And most refi borrowers are choosing 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. November 21 18505 With low rates favoring fixed-rate loans and mortgage bankers, loan production at some of the nation's largest thrifts has shrunk by more than a third on their home turf, California. November 22 18549 TECHNOLOGY Star Taking the Plunge Into Remote Banking Cincinnati's Star Banc Corp. said it had launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to become one of the most advanced "remote banks" in the country. Customer-service channels include voice-activated phone services, screen phones, personal computers, automated teller machines, and video kiosks. The cost will top $10 million, but Star, working with several technology-providing partners, expects to spend only about $1.2 million. November 21 18500 MasterCard's stalled remote banking program may get a jump-start from a new alliance with payment processor Servantis Systems. November 20 18264 Chemical's transaction processing unit, Geoserve, has added Windows capabilities to several parts of its popular treasury software. November 21 18497 FINANCE Setback for Citicorp In Suit Against BT In a victory for Bankers Trust, a panel of judges sent to private arbitration a Citicorp suit over the adequacy of the bank's disclosures about a troubled borrower. Citi says it lost $143 million because BT fraudulently misrepresented the credit status of a loan applicant. November 21 18519 The value of First Bank System's agreement to buy First Interstate Bancorp apparently was inflated by heavy repurchasing of First Bank System shares, critics said. Supporters of rival bidder Wells Fargo cited data showing that in the week and a half after First Bank emerged as a white knight, the broker for its share repurchase program bought 2.4 million shares. First Bank shares rose 3.2%; Wells' fell 1.5% November 20 18284 Accounting rules rarely take center stage in big bank mergers, but they could be decisive in the battle for First Interstate. Wells Fargo raised eyebrows by accounting for hostile bid as a cash deal, highly unusual in banking. And critics say First Bank System's plan to tally its bid as a stock swap may run afoul of accounting rules because of its big share repurchase program. November 22 18562
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