Fellow regulators have stuck by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer, endorsing her warnings that the Savings Association Insurance Fund needs fixing now.

But that would not have been the case if Banc One lobbyist Anne Hall had pursued her nomination to the agency's board.

Ms. Hall is a vocal opponent of the thrift fund rescue because it forces banks to assume a $600 million a year tab on long-term bonds used to pay for the savings and loan industry bailout. If she had joined the board, her opposition would be no secret, she said.

"I don't measure the efficacy or wisdom of a board by unity of thought," Ms. Hall said. "If I would have joined, there would be no question that it's not unanimous."

Ms. Hall pulled her name from consideration for the FDIC post in September 1994 because of delays in her confirmation. In January 1995, former Mississippi banking commissioner Joseph H. Neely was named to the seat after a long wait of his own.

Mr. Neely, a former banker, has not staked out a position on the controversial question, but his new boss is working doggedly to see that the plan is attached to an expected April 24 spending bill that will fund the government through October.

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Many bank lobbyists fighting the insurance restrictions included in the House Banking Committee's Glass-Steagall reform bill have long complained that NationsBank chairman Hugh McColl is too willing to compromise for securities underwriting powers.

Last week, the buzz among lobbyists was that Mr. McColl threatened to pull out of the Bankers Roundtable, the big-bank trade group, because of his frustration over the logjam now blocking the bill.

Not so, according to Roundtable executive director Anthony Cluff and NationsBank officials, who said the rumors probably were spurred by vice chairman James W. Thompson's retirement from the bank and hence the Roundtable.

But many lobbyists found the reports easy to believe. NationsBank is one of four powerful megabanks trying to muscle a deal on the Glass-Steagall reform bill - the others being J.P. Morgan, Norwest Financial, and Chase Manhattan.

Without those big banks pushing the Roundtable to broker a deal, much of the industry would have been content to forget Rep. Jim Leach's bill and start over in the next Congress.

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Two trade groups for big financial holding companies nearly tripped over themselves to support House Banking Committee Chairman Leach's latest effort to end the insurance disputes.

After months of sitting on the sidelines, the Financial Services Council and American Financial Services Association were effusive in their praise for the bill after the Iowa Republican last week proposed allowing common ownership of bank and insurance companies.

In a April 4 letter to Rep. Leach, AFSA senior vice president Jeffrey Tassey said allowing bank and insurance affiliation will "level the playing field for financial services competitors." Members of his group include nonbank lenders such as GMAC Financial Services and G.E. Capital.

FSC president Samuel J. Baptista, whose members include NationsBank, Bankers Trust, Merrill Lynch, and American Express, said in a April 3 letter that Rep. Leach's plan would "remove artificial barriers to competition."

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