WASHINGTON - House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach has expanded his inquiry into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency after learning that the agency may have authorized national banks to hold stock for purposes other than hedging swaps agreements, according to a letter released Thursday.

The letter came less than a week after the Iowa Republican lashed out at Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr. for allowing national banks to make equity investments for hedging equity derivative swaps.

"It has been brought to my attention that the OCC may also have authorized other kinds of investment authorities in other contexts that have hitherto not been made public," Rep. Leach said in the letter.

"I am expanding the inquiry … to request that you inform the committee of any instances in which equity investments in commercial companies have been authorized directly or indirectly through any kind of OCC ruling, guidance, or opinion whether oral or written," he said.

He gave the OCC until today to come up with the information.

Last week the OCC responded to Rep. Leach's previous allegations by saying it was only allowing national banks to hold equity securities as part of a hedge in an equities derivatives contract. "We're not allowing banks to buy equity for investment or speculative purposes," a spokesman had said.

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