WASHINGTON -- The lame-duck chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has announced major organizational changes, surprising people inside and outside the agency.

Acting Chairman Andrew C. Hove Jr., whose term expires in February, shuffled four top officials and replaced one of the FDIC's four divisions with three new units.

Coming Out on Top

John F. Bovenzi, the chairman's deputy, was the big winner. He becomes head of the division of liquidation.

Steven A. Seelig, the current liquidation chief, will head a new division of finance.

John W. Stone, director of resolutions, will be Mr. Hove's new deputy; and Stanley J. Poling is taking the resolutions spot vacated by Mr. Stone, Mr. Poling has run the division of accounting and corporate services, which is being eliminated.

FDIC spokesman Alan Whitney said all but one of the four -- he declined to specify the exception -- will get a pay raise, ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

Some people speculated that Mr. Hove was trying to protect the jobs of some officials in anticipation of a Clinton administration, but he denied that.

"I've been thinking about it for a few weeks, and it really came together yesterday," Mr. Hove said in an interview Tuesday. "I think we can get the benefit of several talents people have in several areas."

Consensus Seen for Change

Besides, Mr. Hove added, the staff shake-up gives people "an opportunity to do something else."

"It was just the consensus that we needed to move some people around," said Paul Fritts, executive director of supervision. "After you've done a job for awhile, you lose your bite."

Mr. Hove became acting chairman after the Aug. 20 death of Chairman William Taylor. In fact, Mr. Taylor was the one who started talking about a reorganization. He hired Booz Allen, an outside consulting firm, to study the FDIC's information-management systems.

All the affected employees are members of the executive services corps, which has less job protection than is given lower-level employees.

Taken by Surprise

The moves, which will be completed by Nov. 16, caught everyone off guard.

"It sounds weird," said an industry consultant who asked that his name not be used. "Maybe this is Hove's effort to put a stamp on his tenure there."

A former FDIC staffer offered: "Moving these guys around four months before a new chairman comes in is probably going to create the loss of their jobs. It's unbelievable that Hove would have conjured this up when a new chairman is coming."

Several other sources interpreted the move in just the opposite light.

Preempting New President?

They said Mr. Hove was assuring that selected staffers got better jobs before a new FDIC board takes office next year. The 1989 thrift bailout law required that the terms of all FDIC board members end Feb. 28, 1993, to give the new president an opportunity to appoint his own people.

Mr. Bovenzi came out ahead on two counts. The division of liquidation, which he takes over, is one of the agency's most important posts, and thee deputy spot, which his old job, usually changes with a new chairman.

As for Mr. Stone, who takes Mr. Bovenzi's place at the chairman's elbow, the new job is precarious.

"This is a knock to Stone," speculated a former FDIC official. Another ex-FDIC official speculated that, after 27 years with the agency, "John may be getting ready to leave the FDIC."

Short Stopover?

However,agency sources theorized that Mr. Stone was merely getting ready to take Mr. Fritts's job as executive director of supervision. Mr. Fritts is expected to retire next year. Mr. Stone did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Mr. Seelig is seen as somewhat of a casualty, though he is being named chief financial officer. He is going from head of a division with $40 billion in assets to a narrower role.

"He's being taken off the line," one observer commented. Another agency source said Mr. Seelig may have been moved because he has resisted new ways of liquidating failed bank assets, such as securitizing loans.

Taking the place of the accounting division is a new division of finance, a division of information resources management, and an office of corporate services.

Dallas RTC Exec Promoted

The agency's information systems will be run by Carmen J. Sullivan, who is transferring here from the Dallas office of the Resolution Trust Corp., where she is director. Corporate services will be headed by James A. Watkins, currently assistant director in the division of accounting and corporate services.

Asked whether the changes were voluntary, Mr. Hove responded: "I can't answer that. You're going to have to ask the people."

Mr. Bovenzi said he is "enthusiastic" about the chance to oversee the FDIC's effort to liquidate nearly $40 billion in assets, though he said he has no concrete ideas for changes. Like Mr. Stone, Mr. Seelig and Mr. Poling did not return calls.

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