Before letting the comptroller of the currency nominee be confirmed, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm is demanding that the agency adopt policies separating its political and examination sides.
The Texas Republican is apparently still concerned that examiners asked banks in January whether they would speak favorably about the Community Reinvestment Act. The flap has delayed confirmation of John D. Hawke Jr. for three months.
"We want assurance that there are procedures in place so that the OCC examination staff knows without question that it is improper," a Senate Banking spokeswoman said. "We'll be a lot more comfortable with Mr. Hawke as comptroller when we know that he's taken these steps."
The spokeswoman also said the committee has not determined whether Mr. Hawke personally authorized examiners to make the CRA inquiry.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has said Mr. Hawke was not aware of examiner involvement until the scandal broke. The reason examiners became involved was to confirm with banks that their names could be used on a list of pro-CRA bankers that the Treasury Department had requested, OCC officials have said.
When Sen. Gramm, R-Tex., made the incident public in January, Mr. Hawke warned agency employees that examiner involvement was "improper."
The Senate committee spokeswoman also said the CRA flap is not the only factor delaying the vote. The impeachment trial and hearings on financial modernization also put Mr. Hawke's confirmation on the back burner, she said.
In addition, the committee is seeking information from the Treasury and the Office of Thrift Supervision, which also got the inquiry for pro-CRA bankers, she said.
Federal Reserve Board Governor Laurence H. Meyer will be the chief banking regulator for the next two years.
Last week his fellow bank, thrift, and credit union regulators elected him chairman of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, the umbrella agency that coordinates supervisory activities. He succeeds Mr. Hawke.
The exam council also elected Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Donna A. Tanoue to a two-year term as vice chairman.
Whoever runs against Rep. Jim Leach next year should look for a campaign contribution from First Data Corp.
Last week the Atlanta-based company agreed with regulators to correct a year-2000 glitch in one of its credit card merchant processing systems. In less than an hour, the House Banking Committee chairman issued a press release taking partial credit.
Rep. Leach said he had introduced a bill, which became law last year, that gives thrift and credit union regulators the same powers as bank supervisors to examine vendors of software and data processing services. The five depository institution regulatory agencies cracked down together on First Data.
First Data announced after the stock market closed last Tuesday that it had agreed to test the fixes on its Envoy processing system by June 30 and complete them by July 11. The company's share price closed at $42.750 the next day, down 81.25 cents.
Secura Group has hired Walter J. Mix 3d, former commissioner of financial institutions in California, to be managing director of its practice in the West. Mr. Mix left his regulatory post this year after the state elected a new governor. He was previously a banker and finance director of the Bush-Quayle campaign and the California Republican Party.
Nancy L. Pierce, the chairwoman of CUNA's board, has two words for Norman E. D'Amours: Butt out.
In a letter last month, Ms. Pierce urged the National Credit Union Administration chairman to stick to safety-and-soundness issues and let trade associations address such matters as the needs of small credit unions and low-income communities. Mr. D'Amours speaks regularly and passionately on both topics.
If Mr. D'Amours does not back off, she wrote, credit unions might get the impression that the regulator is planning to impose CRA-like regulations, and banks might turn his comments into anti-credit-union propaganda. "A number of your public statements have worsened credit unions' fears about a regulatory takeover of the issues," she wrote.
Mr. D'Amours responded with a March 29 letter, copies of which were sent to reporters. "Your letter's statement that I am trying to protect small credit unions from the 'real world' is not only outrageously false, it is insulting to small credit unions," he wrote.
But Ms. Pierce stood her ground. "I firmly believe the statements I made ... are appropriate and reflect the valid concern that trade association efforts be kept separate from those of the regulator," she said in a press release.