Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Donna Tanoue continued her predecessors' Fourth of July tradition of inviting top agency executives, lobbyists, and others to watch the fireworks on the National Mall from the FDIC's sixth-floor offices.
Among her more than 50 guests were former Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig; Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association; Diane M. Casey, president of America's Community Bankers; and Karen Thomas, regulatory affairs director of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Accompanying a friend of the chairman's was Chief Nana Barima Asumadu Sakyi 2d, an Ashanti prince from Ghana.
The Federal Reserve Board, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and other regulators also invited employees and guests to watch the show from their headquarters. In keeping with the usual interagency rivalry, each claimed to have the best view, but an FDIC spokesman felt Ms. Tanoue trumped this year: "I guarantee you [the other agencies] did not have an Ashanti prince from Ghana."
Meanwhile, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm made some fireworks of his own in London on Independence Day. Not content to rest during last week's congressional recess, the Texas Republican made a controversial speech urging Britain to join its former colonies in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Though favored by some Conservative Party members there, British government officials rejected the proposal months ago because it would have to leave the European Union to do so. Sen. Gramm, as always, was undaunted. "My concern about the E.U. is that I see the world evolving not towards worldwide free trade, but towards regional trading blocs that are becoming more protectionist," he told the Centre for Policy Studies. "I want any person working in any hut in any village on the planet to be able to produce anything that is legally traded anywhere without restriction."
Rep. Marge Roukema, chairman of House Banking's financial institutions subcommittee, recently suffered a case of political whiplash thanks to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and other top officials.The New Jersey Republican, a front-runner to be chairman of the full committee next year, issued a news release may 17 claiming she was foursquare behind doubling deposit insurance coverage to $200,000 per account. About a month later Mr. Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers blasted that idea in testimony on Capitol Hill.
Within hours, Rep. Roukema told American Banker that she no longer endorsed raising coverage but would hold hearings in September and keep an open mind. One of her staff members, who earlier that day had assured a reporter that Rep. Roukema supported increasing coverage, acknowledged later that the lawmaker decided to rethink her stance after Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Summers testified.
Some lobbyists joked that were Rep. Roukema a truck driver, she would have to sound an alarm before such 180-degree reversals. "When you back up like that, you are supposed to make a beeping sound to warn people behind you," one said.
The Iowa Bankers Association has established a leadership award named for Iowa Republican Jim Leach, who plans step aside as House Banking Committee chairman next year. The award will honor accomplished bankers from the state with at least five years experience who have demonstrated leadership in their communities and at least one banking trade group. The deadline for nominations is July 21, and the association plans to announce the first winner Sept. 18 at its annual convention in Des Moines.
Comings and goings among state regulators: Karen L. Suter was recently sworn in as commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Banking and Insurance. She had been acting commissioner since January, and joined the department in 1988 as deputy commissioner and chief of banking and insurance operations.In Mississippi, John S. Allison has been named commissioner of the Department of Banking and Consumer Finance. Mr. Allison, who has worked for the department for 28 years, began his four-year term on July 1. He is the first career regulator to head the agency.
James Travis is Louisiana's new financial institutions commissioner. Mr. Travis spent the past 16 years in the state's House of Representatives, including 11 as chairman of the Commerce Committee. He succeeds Doris Gunn, acting commissioner since 1998 when Larry Murray left the job. Mr. Travis was formerly with a small loan company and Hancock Bank in St. Francisville, La.
Jan L. Owen, chief deputy commissioner of California's Department of Financial Institutions, will leave Aug. 1 to become executive vice president of the California Mortgage Bankers Association. She will succeed Zan L. Beckstead, who is retiring. Ms. Owen was the department's acting commissioner for 15 months, until April 4, when Gov. Gray Davis appointed Donald Meyer. Her experience also includes more than 20 years at financial institutions.
James Freeman joined the National Association of Realtors last week as a lobbyist focusing on tax issues. He had spent the last 12 years in government affairs for the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
Recent thoughts on privacy by American Bankers Association president Hjalma E. Johnson:"Privacy is our No. 1 threat.
"Privacy is not an issue. It is a core value. Banks and the thrift industry did not get where they are by mismanaging people's personal information.
"But if we go to opt in, opt in, opt in, we are done as an industry. It will set us back to the 19th century."