Postmaster May Return to His Thrift Roots

Anthony M. Frank quit Ford Motor Corp.'s savings and loan unit in 1988 to become the postmaster general. But his heart is still in the thrift business, judging by how often he weighs in on the flaws of the government bailout and the future of the industry.

Reports have now surfaced that Mr. Frank, former chief executive of First Nationwide Financial Corp., San Francisco, is contemplating a comeback. His prospective partners: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the Wall Street leveraged buyout firm, and the federal government.

According to a report in last Wednesday's Washington Post, Mr. Frank is talking to thrift regulators about teaming up with KKR to acquire several large troubled California thrifts. His plan, reportedly, is to then merge them and pump in a mix of government aid and private capital.

A spokesman for Mr. Frank said that the talks were "conceptual" and that no negotiations were under way.

Robert Schmermund, a spokesman for the Office of Thrift Supervision, said that Mr. Frank had discussed a possible deal with T. Timothy Ryan Jr., director of the agency, in the course of a wide-ranging talk that took place about three weeks ago.

There's no proposal on the table, and no policy in place to permit such a deal. But banking regulators are trying to develop policy guidelines to judge whether such deals make sense.

Bank lobbyists may again have to compete with community activists for seats in the House and the Senate when industry reform legislation is taken up by several committees next month.

Chris Lewis, executive director of the Washington, D.C., office of Acorn, a nationwide community-action group, says more of the membership might be bused into town for hearings if Congress tries to water down the Community Reinvestment Act or fudge on any other consumer protections.

A busload of Acorn members from Philadelphia and Baltimore packed a House Banking Committee hearing on two consecutive days last month to show dissatisfaction with a proposal to exempt small banks from complying with CRA.

Some bank lobbyists weren't happy about being unable to get inside the hearing room.

Ken Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America, urged members this holiday weekend to roast Congress instead of barbecuing steaks in the backyard.

He says his community bankers ought to corner senators back at home and "express grave concers" about the House Banking Committee's version of bank eform.

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