The White House last week said it intends to nominate Allan I. Mendelowitz to the Federal Housing Finance Board.

The Middletown, Conn., resident spent 14 years at the General Accounting Office as managing director for international trade, finance, and economic competitiveness, where he oversaw studies of national policies on finance and economic development. Most recently, Mr. Mendelowitz has been executive director of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission, a congressional appointment.

Finance Board Chairman Bruce Morrison announced last week that he will resign in July to take a private-sector job, and speculation has centered on Mr. Mendelowitz as his likely successor. However, others think that a nominee awaiting confirmation to the board, Franz S. Leichter, could be the next chairman. The White House has not yet revealed whom it wants for chairman.

Because election-year politics has slowed the confirmation process, the betting is the next chairman will be installed under a presidential recess appointment. In the meantime, the five-seat board is extremely short-handed. When Mr. Morrison leaves, only two members will remain.

Elizabeth McCaul officially became superintendent of the New York State Banking Department last week after gaining the state Senate's approval. Gov. George Pataki nominated Ms. McCaul last December; she had been acting superintendent since April 1997.

The Treasury Department recently hired Leslie A. Woolley to be a liaison to the financial services industry.Ms. Woolley resigned in October after nearly two years as chief lobbyist for the Investment Company Institute to spend more time with her baby daughter. She had been special adviser to the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and deputy chairman for policy, and she once worked for the House and Senate Banking committees.

Sen. Phil Gramm last week defended fellow Texas Republican George W. Bush's stance on Social Security reform.

Responding to critics of Gov. Bush's plan to divert a portion of Social Security payroll taxes into individual investment accounts, Sen. Gramm said the idea is working elsewhere in the government and private sector.

"Why is [an individual account] good for teachers, good for government employees but somehow wrong for Social Security?" he asked. "What we have here is the voice of the status quo, people who are committed to the past, who are unwilling to change a system that is going broke."

Sen. Gramm called Gov. Bush's critics partisan "attack dogs" working for Vice President Gore.

Front and center among Gore advisers was Alan Blinder, the former Federal Reserve Board vice chairman who is co-director of Princeton University's Center for Economic Policy Studies.

Mr. Blinder, with three others, presented a paper Tuesday on Gov. Bush's plan that argues individual investment accounts would expose workers to "substantially increased risk" from fluctuations in the stock or bond markets.

What's more, the plan would "force substantial reductions in benefits within the Social Security program in order to maintain the solvency of the system," according to the paper.

In a recent New York Times op-ed article, Mr. Blinder also condemned the "commissions and, even more important, management fees" that financial services firms would earn from administering the investment accounts.

Vice President Gore is expected to announce on Tuesday his blueprint for reforming Social Security.

Just how much cable TV is Julie L. Williams watching?Trying to define predatory lending, the Comptroller of the Currency's chief counsel said it was best to think in terms of a nature program on the Discovery channel:

"You could say that a classic 'predator' traps the unwary and preys on the weak," she said at a risk management conference last week in Chicago sponsored by RMA and the Consumer Bankers Association. "Put in the lending context, a predatory lender ensnares vulnerable customers with loan products designed to prey on their weakness, to bleed them financially, and in some cases strip them of their most precious possessions."

Later, borrowing a famous line about the difficulty of defining the obvious, she said that it is "like pornography - you know it when you see it." She didn't mention which channel inspired that analogy.

America's Community Bankers continues to reorganize and has decided to outsource its top legal job. Brock R. Landry, a partner in the law firm Venable Baetjer Howard and Civiletti, was named outside general counsel last week. Former ACB general counsel Dawn Causey left the group in March and later joined the American Bankers Association as director of financial institution affairs.

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