The recent change in command at BankAmerica Corp. has apparently forced out Bank of America's top lobbyist, Julia Chang Bloch, who announced plans to leave the San Francisco-based institution last week.
Bank of America officials said Ms. Bloch is leaving her post for personal reasons. No date has been set for her departure.
But sources, who predicted Ms. Bloch would step down in April, speculated in January that her days were numbered. That's when David A. Coulter edged out Lewis W. Coleman for the chairmanship of the bank. Ms. Bloch is a protege of Mr. Coleman, the bank's former chief financial officer.
Ms. Bloch, who has held the post of director of corporate relations since 1993, oversees of government relations, policy analysis, and corporate communications. Corporate secretary Sherie Sorokin will take over Ms. Bloch's duties.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato insists there's plenty of time for Glass-Steagall reform, despite his Whitewater investigation.
At a fund-raiser for Senate Republicans last week, Sen. D'Amato told several big-bank lobbyists that he can move his Glass-Steagall repeal bill quickly - all he needs is for the House to move its plan first. In fact, the New York Republican pledged to hold hearings as soon as the House bill clears the floor and two weeks later get the legislation through his committee.
House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach repeated Sen. D'Amato's comments at a speech on Monday to the Institute of International Bankers, to quell pessimistic comments about the House plan, which is stalled by disputes between the banking and insurance industries. Rep. Leach told his audience that he believes he can get his bill to the House floor early next month. With Sen. D'Amato's recent commitment, he added, Glass-Steagall repeal could be enacted this year.
The ardent skeptics will be hard to convince, however. Most bank lobbyists say House leaders steadfastly refuse to let Rep. Leach's bill come to a vote as long as the bank/insurance dispute threatens to divide the party.
Fueling that division, the American Bankers Association is running one- minute radio spots on Washington stations ridiculing the agents' efforts to restrict bank sales of insurance.
The ABA's ad portrays 19th-century candle makers who argue that "electricity is unfair and dangerous." Like the fictional candle makers, the spot contends, agents stand in the way of progress and American ingenuity by promoting a "scheme to shut off competition."
The bailout of the thrift deposit insurance fund is the banking industry's hottest issue, but it's even hotter for John Milstead, executive vice president of the Florida Bankers Association. His members include both banks and thrifts - opposite sides of the debate.
But when the Florida Bankers visited Washington late last month, Mr. Milstead's group sidestepped the question. Rather than fight the rescue legislation, which would force banks to assume the bulk of payments on long-term bonds used for a previous thrift industry bailout, Mr. Milstead and his members urged lawmakers to enact pro-bank legislation.
"Some bankers don't mind the bond payments, but they're disappointed they're not getting anything for it," he said.
His group is focusing on bills to provide regulatory relief, enhance the bank charter, and tax large credit unions.