Financial Services Forum Picks President

WASHINGTON - The Financial Services Forum, a new trade group formed by 19 of the country's largest banks, insurance companies, and securities firms, has named George J. Vojta president."I look forward to working with the members to address the critical issues that confront our industry and promoting policy initiatives that advance the goal of open and competitive financial markets in the United States and around the globe," said Mr. Vojta, who had been vice chairman of Bankers Trust Corp. since 1992 until stepping down last July after its acquisition by Deutsche Bank. He starts his new job April 1.

The group's first priority will be lobbying Congress to ratify a recent pact reached between China and the United States that would remove trade barriers and let U.S. financial service firms increase investment and businesses activities in China. A vote is expected by May. If the Congress fails to approve the agreement, Mr. Vojta said, European and Japanese financial institutions will expand there instead.

The Financial Services Forum will also focus on fighting attempts to tighten consumer privacy protections at the federal and state levels and will weigh in on the rules implementing the merchant banking provision and other elements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Though the group has not yet adopted official positions on these matters, he said that it would likely be in step with other industry groups.

"We expect to work in a complementary fashion with the [other] industry groups," Mr. Vojta said, adding that his group was necessary to represent the "special concerns and issues" unique to the global, diversified conglomerates that founded it in January.

The group's members include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., and MetLife. The Financial Services Forum also on Thursday named Philip J. Purcell its chairman. The appointment was expected, because Mr. Purcell, the chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., was the group's lead organizer. William B. Harrison, chairman and chief executive officer Chase Manhattan Corp., was named vice chairman.

The group is seeking to hire an experienced, high-profile Washington lobbyist.

House Panel Passes Hedge-Fund-Bill

WASHINGTON - The House Banking subcommittee on capital markets approved legislation on Thursday that would impose new reporting requirements on hedge funds.Under the Hedge Fund Disclosure Act, some hedge funds would have to submit quarterly financial reports to the Federal Reserve Board that would be made available to the public. The bill applies to unregulated, pooled investment funds with assets of $3 billion or more. An amendment would exempt hedge funds registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or another agency.

"This bill does not aim to regulate hedge funds," said subcommittee Chairman Richard H. Baker, R-La. "The goal of the bill is simply to enhance market discipline and allow market participants to make better, more informed judgments about the creditworthiness of hedge funds."

- Compiled by Dean Anason

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