In the wake of the Daiwa Bank scandal last year, the New York Banking Department is urging bankers to take a break.

The recommendation, given to bank officials in a letter from state Superintendent Neil D. Levin, is designed to prevent problems like those at Daiwa, which was regulated by the state.

Last year a trader in the New York office of the Japanese bank admitted racking up $1.1 billion in securities losses over 11 years. Regulators said the losses went undetected because he was not well supervised.

Mr. Levin's theory is that if a key staff member is forced to take off two weeks a year, it will give someone else a chance to check up on his record keeping.

The state recommends that every bank have a vacation policy that covers "those officers and employees involved or engaged in transactional business or having the ability to change the official records of the institution. The department strongly recommends that all traders be covered by the policy."

During their vacation, the letter said, the employees should be barred from the premises and should not have off-site computer access to company records or transactions. That would ensure that they could not fudge the books without being caught.

Exceptions to the policy should be noted in writing and should not be granted repeatedly to the same individuals.

Mr. Levin also warned that regulators would review such policies and "will be looking for compliance with prudent practices in this area."


Frustrated by banks' don't-resist policy on handling bank robbers? A pair of security companies might have the answer: robber traps.

The product, installed in the vestibule of a branch, is designed to cage a retreating robber.

Baltimore-based International Security Inc. installs systems that trap bandits with the push of a button by closing a bank's doors with magnetic locks and hydraulics, according to an Associated Press report.

Hamilton Safe Co. of Fairfield, Ohio, has been offering similar mantraps for several years for between $25,000 and $60,000. About 15 banks use them, according to a company spokesman.

Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh has installed the International Security system at 12 branches since 1994, netting three suspects.

The system discourages crooks from even attempting a robbery, a bank representative said. "We decided on them as the best available deterrent," said Mellon spokesman Jim Dever.

- James B. Arndorfer

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