Under Pressure, Rivoir to Resign As Arizona Banking Commissioner

Arizona's outspoken banking commissioner, Hank Rivoir, is preparing to leave office under pressure from the state's new governor.

Gov. Fife Symington took office in February and has been replacing officials right and left. But the Republican ran into a roadblock with the feisty banking commissioner.

Mr. Rivoir's four-year term does not expire until January 1993, and several weeks ago he resisted Mr. Symington's initial request to step down. But last week Mr. Rivoir told the American Banker he's ready to give in.

Accession or Dismissal?

"Hank Rivoir has not been fired," Mr. Rivoir said, before adding: "In all probability, I will accede to the governor's request" by month's end.

Mr. Rivoir, 40, became Arizona's banking commissioner in February 1989. Prior to that, his career included eight years as a lawyer for the Comptroller of the Currency in Washington. An attorney, Mr. Rivoir served a stint as general counsel for United Bank of Arizona and with a private law firm.

Mr. Rivoir has been, a constant critic of the Resolution Trust Corp. His problem with the RTC, he said last week, is its "continuing inability to translate policies into actions."

Mr. Rivoir's last attack came in June, in front of one of the regional boards Congress set up to advise the RTC. He blasted the RTC as too reluctant to restructure troubled loans and too slow to finance real estate sales.

"The uncertainty that the RTC's procedures are still engendering, plus their reluctance to do restructurings, is having a negative affect on our economy and on real estate values in our state," he told the board.

Mr. Rivoir sent a copy of his remarks to Arizona's seven congressmen and to the House and Senate banking committees.

When Gov. Symington announced that he wanted Mr. Rivoir's resignation, a columnist in The Phoenix Gazette speculated that the governor wanted to dump Mr. Rivoir because his RTC testimony was so harsh.

Self-Promotion Denied

The columnist also charged that, in sending copies of his testimony to Congress, Mr. Rivoir was using state funds to promote himself. "I didn't send a picture of myself or anything," Mr. Rivoir replied. "It wasn't self-promoting, it was on behalf of the state."

He added: "Congress is the place where changes are going to be made, so you have to get your message to Congress." Mr. Rivoir said the cost was $150.

As for the governor giving him the heave-ho following his RTC testimony, Mr. Rivoir said: "The timing is coincidental, not causal."

Gordon Murphy, director of the Arizona Bankers Association, said that Mr. Rivoir "went a little far in some of the adjectives that he used and the tenor of his testimony, but none of that had anything to do with being asked by the governor to move over."

"Politics got him," said R.C. Robertson, president of Arizona State Savings and Credit Union, Phoenix. "He's not a real diplomatic guy, sometimes those kinds of guys don't rub other people the right way."

A |Forthright' Regulator

But Mr. Robertson called Mr. Rivior "an excellent regulator, very forthright."

That he is controversial, Mr. Rivoir does not deny. But he does not consider himself a persistent critic.

"I like to think of myself more as being an activist regulator than a gadfly," he said.

Mr. Rivoir realizes that he bugs RTC officials, but he insisted: "I felt state government had an obligation to be involved with it. Actually, I've wondered why people in other states who are being as affected by the RTC have not done it."

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