CHICAGO - Like, it seemed, every other activity on the planet, the national compliance conference being held here by America's Community Bankers ground to a halt when the verdict in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial was read last week.

While the original agenda had called for the three-day conference to wrap up at 1 p.m. central time Oct. 3, sessions were shortened and adjusted to make sure that no one at the conference missed the end of the so-called trial of the century.

Hastily typed notices hung from stands outside each meeting room announcing the conference would end at 11:55 a.m. central, five minutes before the verdict was to be announced.

"We changed the plans really early this morning," said Donald Castle, a program manager with the trade group who moderated one of the shortened sessions. "All of this happened so suddenly that we didn't have the chance to let everybody know."

Whether it was because people had already left the conference or because of the scheduling quirks, the closing session was far less crowded than the opener. But those who sat in on the final session stayed put as trade group officials turned on the two televisions that flanked the speakers' podium in the front of the room.

The announcement of the verdict drew almost no audible reaction from the group, which began filing out of the room minutes later.


Earlier that day, Ramona Payne, senior project manager at Interbold, said the Canton, Ohio, maker of automated teller machines has been hard at work making sure bank cash machines comply with possible upcoming changes in rules issued by the Council of American Building Officials and American National Standards Institute.

Ms. Payne said much of her company's attention has been focused on making ATMs accessible to deaf, blind, and wheelchair-bound customers.

Ms. Payne said ATMs' height may need to be lowered to accommodate the new rules, possibly resulting in a flood of demand for new machines. She also spoke of adding audio capabilities - through speakers and/or headphones - to ATMs that would make using the machines easier for the blind.

The standards institute's accredited-standards committee is accepting comments on the new proposal through Nov. 27, and any responses will be considered at a meeting of the committee, tentatively scheduled for February.


Before getting bombarded with questions during a town meeting-style session at the conference, the policy director for America's Community Bankers tried put his audience's minds at ease about the future of regulation in the industry.

With a regulatory relief bill being dealt with in Congress and a streamlined Community Reinvestment Act exam in the offing, the official, Brian Smith, said bankers should be pleased.

"The regulatory environment has never been better," Mr. Smith said. "There are no major new regulations on the horizon and most of the work being done now is to make regulations more user-friendly. Each agency is looking at things to drop, ways to streamline, and processes to make things easier."

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