Ellen S. Seidman was sworn in Wednesday as director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, the agency's first Senate-confirmed leader in five years.

"It's a little scary, but it's also very exciting," Ms. Seidman said in an interview. "There are relatively few jobs in Washington where a single individual heads an independent agency of any serious size. It's a wonderful management job."

The former White House aide has hit the ground running. Ms. Seidman, 49, flew to Dallas Thursday for a meeting at the regional office there; today she addresses the thrift industry for the first time at the America's Community Bankers convention in San Francisco. She also will meet OTS staff members in San Francisco and Los Angeles this week.

Ms. Seidman said her first priority is internal staffing issues.

"I want to make sure we are staffed the way we need to be staffed, and that the morale is as high as it can possibly be given all the tumult resulting from consolidation and talk of merging this agency into another," Ms. Seidman said.

She also hinted at reducing the number or size of the five OTS regional offices. "The regional structure ... is no longer consistent with where the institutions are," Ms. Seidman said.

She praised predecessors Jonathan Fiechter and Nicolas P. Retsinas for doing "a great job starting the process of taking the agency from one that always thought it was going downhill to one that really is beginning to feel like things are O.K.," Ms. Seidman said. "But there's still a lot of work to be done.

"Having a permanent, politically appointed director gives us an opportunity to say, 'We're here for real and we're going to make this work,'" she added.


The Justice Department's top fair-lending cop called it quits Friday.

Paul F. Hancock, who played a pivotal role in all 13 lending-bias prosecutions, resigned to join the Florida Attorney General's office, where he will investigate discrimination and fraud against elderly consumers.

"I'm pleased with what we have been able to accomplish," Mr. Hancock said. "The small amount we have done has helped the industry take this issue seriously and increase lending to minorities."

Attorney General Janet Reno praised Mr. Hancock. "His efforts have paved the way for minorities to get a fair shot at getting a loan and realizing the American dream," she said.

Justice's acting housing chief Joan Magagna succeeds Mr. Hancock.

Although he accepted the Florida job nearly a year ago, Mr. Hancock has delayed his departure to give the Clinton administration more time to fill several vacant posts in the civil rights division.


The Rev. Charles R. Stith, national president of the Organization for a New Equality, can add Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to the list of top government officials he's snagged to share the findings of his report on lending to minority-run small businesses.

Rev. Stith, who met with Mr. Rubin Friday afternoon, argued that banks are not meeting the credit needs of minority small businesses. Rev. Stith made a similar case earlier this month during separate meetings with Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan.


The snowstorm that socked Colorado a week ago wreaked havoc on the Consumer Bankers Association's annual executive retail conference.

Nearly 150 senior bank executives were stranded at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs as two feet of snow blanketed the area, forcing the state to close its airports and highways.

Most of the confab's big-name speakers never made it, including Citicorp chairman John S. Reed who called CBA president Joe Belew before dawn to say his pilot could not get advanced clearance to land at any of the local airports.

"The bankers were fabulous," Mr. Belew said. "They understood that there was nothing we could do about it."

Even the entertainment canceled, so bankers sang songs in the hotel lounge. The resort's single chef stayed busy catering the group's banquets, while the rest of the hotel's guests were forced to eat sandwiches.

Pamela Flaherty, CBA's incoming chairman, never made it. She got stranded in downtown Denver, where she was fortunate to snag a room at the Hyatt.

She fared far better than Jeff A. Norris, chief executive of Affinity Technology Group, Columbia, S.C., who tried to get to Colorado Springs in a four-wheel drive vehicle along with John Rogers, senior vice president of sales, and Jack Schatz, president of the marketing consulting firm Corporate Concepts.

After their truck got stuck in a ditch, the group waited five hours until the vehicle ran out of gas. "The windows started icing on the outside and inside," Mr. Norris said.

Mr. Norris set out on foot for help. He said he put on every dress shirt, used all his socks as gloves, covered his face with underwear, and put laundry bags over his shoes. After trudging a half mile in waist deep snow, he found another stranded motorist, who had already called the highway department for help. Mr. Norris returned to the truck to retrieve his passengers and their luggage. A snowplow picked them all up, and they waited 18 hours at a fire station before making it to the hotel.

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