Breaking ranks with other die-hard opponents of House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach's Glass-Steagall reform bill, Banc One Corp. gave the legislation a "wholehearted" endorsement this week.
Many bank lobbyists said the Iowa Republican jumped the gun on May 3 by proclaiming a deal was sealed between bank and insurance industry groups that have spent months fighting over his bill. But Banc One lobbyist Annie Hall said the latest version of Rep. Leach's bill gives banks what they need: new securities underwriting powers and the right to link up with an insurance affiliate.
Have the dreaded restrictions been removed from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency? Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One doesn't care. The comptroller's ability to grant new insurance powers to banks becomes "redundant" if Rep. Leach's bill is passed, according to Ms. Hall.
Another bank is leaning toward backing the bill. Sources said BankAmerica Corp. last week sent lawyer Patrick Antrim to rejoin the talks - reportedly a sign of the San Francisco bank holding company's newfound support for the legislation after sitting on the sidelines for several months.
But the real test of big-bank support will come when the Bankers Roundtable takes a stand - a vote by its board could come today. As of deadline, Roundtable executive director Anthony T. Cluff said the outcome was too close to call.
After six years as Washington lobbyist for the Canadian Bankers Association, Lise Hafner is leaving her post June 21.
She set up the association's office here soon after the Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agreement was enacted and Canadian banks began beefing up their presence in this country.
"If you're going to do business in the U.S., you'd better have a presence in Washington," she said.
Ms. Hafner, currently president of Washington-based Women in Housing and Finance, is leaving the trade association job to move to Albany, N.Y., where her husband, former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. attorney Michael Endler, has landed a job with an accounting firm.
One of the most important pieces of legislation drafted during her stint in Washington was foreign bank supervision provisions included in the FDIC Improvement Act. The rules tightened the Federal Reserve's guidelines for permitting foreign bank agencies in the United States.
Two activist groups fighting GOP efforts to rollback the Community Reinvestment Act put the screws to lawmakers recently.
On the last Sunday in April, 400 activists from Chicago-based National People's Action descended upon Rep. Leach's Washington residence to protest his support for relaxed CRA rules now in the House Banking Committee's regulatory relief package.
The Iowa Republican wasn't home, but National People's Action knocked on neighbors' doors and handed out fliers alleging that he is "trying to kill CRA," said Rochelle Nawrocki, a volunteer for the organization.
Taking a less confrontational approach is the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, or Acorn, which is trying to set up meetings with Senate staffers to head off any temptation to add anti-CRA provisions to a bill cutting bank regulations.