Check-Fraud Database Opened to All Banks

WASHINGTON - Banks have a new weapon to deploy in their fight against fraud.The Secret Service announced Wednesday that it is widening a three-year-old pilot program to make available to banks and law enforcement agencies nationwide a database of counterfeit corporate checks.

To gain access to the site, prospective users must complete a brief questionnaire online, which the Secret Service then uses to run a background check. Banks cleared to use the site will be notified in about a day.

Once inside, bankers can recount their own counterfeit-check incidents, read about those at other banks, and communicate with other bankers or law enforcement officials. The Secret Service uses the database to track check fraud trends and to aid investigations.

MBNA Exec Is MasterCard U.S. Chairman

PURCHASE, N.Y. - MasterCard International on Tuesday named an MBNA Corp. executive, Michael G. Rhodes, chairman of its U.S. region board of directors.Mr. Rhodes, vice chairman of MBNA America Bank NA, succeeds Ronald N. Zebeck, chairman of Metris Cos.

The card association named three other executives to its board: John A. Klein, chief executive officer and president of People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn.; Richard Srednicki, executive vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank; and Patrick J. Swanick, president and chief executive officer of Key Electronic Services, the electronic commerce subsidiary of KeyCorp.

- Lisa Fickenscher

Severance Plan Unveiled for Ex-Aetna CEO

HARTFORD, Conn. - Aetna Inc., whose share price has fallen 36% in the past year, is paying former chairman and chief executive Richard Huber $3.4 million to $3.6 million in severance, a regulatory filing said.Mr. Huber, who was paid about $2.25 million in salary and bonuses for 1999, will get 88 weeks of pay in exchange for not competing with Aetna, the largest U.S. health insurer. He will also have an office and administrative help for up to a year.

Mr. Huber resigned Feb. 25 after shareholders, upset by the company's poor performance, pressured the board to make changes. His successor, William Donaldson, has vowed to improve relationships.

After Mr. Huber resigned, Wellpoint Health Networks Inc. and ING Groep NV made a $70-a-share unsolicited offer for the insurer. The board has rejected the bid, saying it plans to increase shareholder value by splitting Aetna into two publicly traded companies.

- Bloomberg News

Wachovia CEO Got 41% Raise, to $2.4M

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wachovia Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Leslie M. Baker Jr. received $2.4 million in salary and bonuses in 1999, a 41% raise from 1998.Mr. Baker got a $1.5 million bonus last year, a 65% increase over his 1998 bonus of $891,600, according to a proxy filed Wednesday.

- Louis Whiteman

State Street Names a 4th Vice Chairman

BOSTON - John R. Towers was appointed vice chairman of State Street Corp. on Wednesday, the company said.He will continue to run the Boston bank's global operations unit in the newly created position. Mr. Towers, 58, is now one of four vice chairmen. He continues to report to David A. Spina, State Street's president and chief executive officer.

As head of global operations, a job he has held since 1997, Mr. Towers is responsible for State Street's securities and cash operation in the global market. He spent three years as the bank's general counsel.

- Matt Ackermann

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