WASHINGTON -- Have you ever heard of the Center for Legal and Regulatory Compliance? Chances are, you haven't.

For the past year, the center has been working at establishing itself by holding a lot of meetings, creating a mission statement, and developing projects.

With the powerful backing of the American Bankers Association, one might think this group would be a hard-hitting high-profile operation. But, said those at the ABA, its real mission is to work quietly behind the scenes developing a central compliance resource base for bankers.

"We've been laying a foundation for what the center wanted to be," said E. Cynthia Baltierra, the center's director and a former Federal Reserve Board examiner. "We want to give more, better, and quicker compliance information to our members."

James McLaughlin, director of agency relations at the ABA, said the center's purpose is to work with bankers to find information and solve compliance problems.

"The center has been doing a lot of preliminary work tying into all divisions of banking," Mr. McLaughlin said. "We want bankers to think 'ABA' first" when it comes to compliance questions.

Two fair-lending training videos, the center's first big projects, were unveiled last week. Each costs $265 for members, but bankers can save 33% if they buy both.

Around the first of the year, bankers will be able to call the center on a compliance hot line.

Ms. Baltierra, or others on her three-person staff, will answer questions about laws and regulations. Ms. Baltierra expects the hot line will be used extensively and will give bankers a chance to bring any compliance question straight to an expert. "We'll be like a clearing house," she said.

Another plan is to take the ABA compliance manuals high tech. The manuals will be put on disk in the beginning of 1995 and will eventually go on CD-ROM as well.

The center also has responsibilities for the trade group's compliance schools and other educational endeavors, such as American Financial Skylink, an annual compliance conference, and a quarterly magazine.

Next year the compliance school will be separated into two segments: one for lenders and the other for operations officials.

For example, lending regulations include the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the Community Reinvestment Act, while the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and the Expedited Funds Availability Act fall into the operational side.

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