Like Their U.S. Counterparts, Soviet Regulators Take Some Heat
Georgy G. Matjukhin probably guessed that accepting an appointment last year as chairman of the Russian republic's central bank wouldn't win him a spot on any pedestals.
With hungry, market-oriented commercial banks in the Soviet Union snapping open like hot popcorn, Mr. Matjukhin anticipated that any attempt to introduce the "R" word - regulation - would be met with disdain.
But he couldn't have known how bitter the dispute would get.
In recent months Mr. Matjukhin has created interest rate caps, toughened capital guidelines, and tightened licensing procedures.
In response -- particularly since the failed coup in August - some commercial bankers and ministers in the Russian government have waged a campaign calling for Mr. Matjukhin's resignation.
Recently, he returned fire. Among his charges:
* Commercial banks are laundering billions of rubles held by the now-defunct Communist Party.
* Some banks are sharking short-term loans at annual interest rates of up to 1,000%.
Western bankers in Moscow corroborated some of Mr. Matjukhin's claims. "Hot money is a significant problem," said one, who asked not to be identified.
Commercial bankers, too, acknowledge that some of their brethren are running afoul of the law. But they argue Mr. Matjukhin has responded with rules that penalize all banks.
Another popular target is Victor Gerashchenko, chairman at Gosbank, the Soviet central bank.
Following the unsuccessful coup, the banker was asked to resign because he had failed to denounce engineers of the putsch. But a few days later he was reappointed -- after Western bankers howled.
As a result, Mr. Gerashchenko seems to evoke special ire. "He came on television one day promising not to take certain ruble notes out of circulation," said Ivan G. Vasin, chairman of Montazhspetsbank, referring to recent changes in monetary policy. "The next day, the notes were no good.
"To trust Matjukhin, maybe. To trust Gerashchenko, never."