|This Has Been a Very Enjoyable Job'

Seidman Talks About His Past, Future, and the Press

Q&A Believe it or not, L. William Seidman has had fun while chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. during one of the worst banking crises in U.S. history. He has no regrets and doesn't plan to spend too much time looking back after stepping down on Oct. 16, he told Washington bureau chief Jim McTague and reporter Barbara Rehm last week. His advice to the new chairman: "Blame your predecessor at the first sign of trouble."

American Banker: Are you planning to be active in this town after you leave the FDIC?

L. William Seidman: I really don't know, because so far everything that has happened to me in my long career has just sort of happened. I have not been a great career planner. I think I'd like to emerge from . . . bank regulation to a broader view.

AB: Such as?

WS: There are some things in the country that obviously need attention. The international economy; our relationship with Japan and other trading partners. Opportunities in Eastern Europe.

AB: What about participating in the '92 Bush campaign?

WS: [Commerce Secretary Robert A.] Mosbacher is a friend of mine, and he's campaign manager. I indicated to him that if I can be helpful, I would be happy to do so.

AB: What do you think about the press corps?

WS: They have a very tough job. . . . If you make a mistake, it's obvious.

AB: What's your secret for good relations with the press?

WS: It's pretty much, "If you fool people once, they won't trust you the next time." And secondly, the press has a tough job, and if you can help them with the job, that will make both your life and their life better.

AB: In your case, the press has been uncritical to the point of almost being adoring.

WS: [Side-splitting laughter] That is absolutely untrue. They've dug in around here plenty. You've got every expense account. You are always asking for a raft of other stuff. . . . [Banking author] Martin Mayer made an industry of trying to take me apart.

I had one great advantage. The couple of years I had been in the Ford White House, I had dealt with the press corps. That gave me some experience. Secondly, most of my kids are in the press. And third, I had my own column and so forth in a newspaper. So I had greater experience than the average person. But fundamentally, I guess I'm lovable.

AB: You return phone calls to reporters yourself. And it seems that it doesn't matter what paper they work for, big or small.

WS: I call everybody back, not just the press. Every call I get is answered. If I can't do it, somebody else does. I think that's a matter of reasonable relations with people.

AB: Are you carrying around a blunderbuss that you're going to unload at official Washington when you leave?

WS: No. This has been a very enjoyable job.

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