over whether the federal government subsidizes banks. And it is prepared to pay those who reach the right conclusions. In a letter mailed to 4,000 university and think tank economists last month, Edward J. Hill, special assistant for government affairs, requested written proposals of studies researching the question. Authors with the five best ideas will be paid $5,000 to write full papers. The Roundtable, the letter said, is looking for papers confirming its position that the cost of regulation outstrips any benefit banks reap from deposit insurance, access to the discount window or the payments system. "We're unashamedly one-sided on this issue," said Anthony T. Cluff, the Roundtable's executive director. Still, Mr. Hill denied that the group was proposing to purchase academic support. "We're just trying to find people that already have these opinions," he said. "For five grand, no one's going to reverse course on something they believe in." Edward E. Furash has left the bank consulting practice that bears his name to join his son in starting Monument Financial Group, a merchant banking company. Mr. Furash was vacationing in Spain and could not be reached for comment last week. But in a prepared statement, he said he is moving his consulting practice to the new firm, which he officially joined Jan. 1. His son, James S. Furash, said Monument Financial initially is advising banks about entering the insurance business and nonbanks about entering the banking business. He declined to identify any clients. Within six months, the firm will establish a venture capital fund so it may take equity stakes in start-up financial services firms, he said. Furash & Co. was purchased in December 1997 by InterBank Cos., which plans to continue to operate the consulting firm under its current name. On the state regulatory front, Jack Schaffer is resigning as Illinois' commissioner of banks and real estate on Jan. 14. Mr. Schaffer, 56, is leaving his post to spend time with his twin daughters, who were born in December. A successor has not been named to fill out his four-year term, which expires in 1999. Gavin M. Gee, director of the Idaho Department of Finance, was reappointed to a four-year term. He became acting director in 1995 and has been with the department since 1977.

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