Stalled Report May Postpone Clarke Hearings

WASHINGTON - Senate confirmation hearings for Comptroller of the Currency Robert L. Clarke may be delayed until autumn, pending delivery of a report from the General Accounting Office on Mr. Clarke's handling of the Bank of New England failure.

Sen. Donald Riegle, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has been awaiting the report before scheduling hearings on Mr. Clarke's renomination. The report, which had been expected this month, will not be ready until September at the earliest, Craig Simmons, director of the GAO's financial institutions and markets group, said Monday.

Dispute over Loan Data

President Bush nominated Mr. Clarke to a second five-year term in January. Sen. Riegle, D-Mich., first delayed Mr. Clarke's hearing because the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency declined to surrender confidential BNE loan documents to committee investigators.

After committee staff members complained that the OCC was not cooperating with their investigation, Sen. Riegle called in the GAO in June. The OCC said it could hand over borrower information to GAO employees because they are bound by the same code of confidentiality as bank regulators.

Status Report Due

Mr. Simmons said the GAO will give Sen. Riegle a written status report Wednesday, explaining what the agency has done to date and when it expects to complete its report.

Frank Maguire, the senior deputy comptroller who handles relations with Congress, said Mr. Clarke is anticipating confirmation this month. "Clarke is beginning his second round of courtesy calls with the senators tomorrow afternoon," he said.

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