Basel Burnout

For evidence that official Washington is sick to death of Basel II, look no further than last week's Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. open board meeting and a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

At the FDIC meeting, agency staff used the term "user-friendly" to describe 250 pages of guidance designed to help examiners and bankers implement the still-unfinished global capital rule.

Board members were skeptical.

"I look forward to the comments of exactly how user-friendly it is," said board member Thomas Curry.

FDIC Vice Chairman Martin Gruenberg quipped, "I would rather not have a pop quiz on these guidelines."

Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan called the document musty, for the frequent appearance of the word "must."

Office of Thrift Supervision Director John Reich pointed out that the word appears 455 times.

On the Hill, Committee Chairman Barney Frank beseeched Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke to wrap up the much-delayed regulation.

"I hope that you can in fact bring the Basel process to a conclusion and I never have to think of it again for about six years," Rep. Frank told the Fed chief.

Speaking to reporters later, Rep. Frank said: "My basic concern is that I have to pay attention to it and it gives me a headache. It's Rubik's Cube - every time you do one thing, six other people get upset."

Fedspeak Cleanup

Mr. Bernanke appeared before both the House and Senate banking committees last week to deliver his twice-yearly update on monetary policy. After concluding his prepared remarks, he told Rep. Frank he would be happy to answer questions.

The Massachusetts Democrat replied, "You sound somewhat more enthusiastic when you say that than your predecessor did."

Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., said he thought Mr. Bernanke was a lot easier to understand than Alan Greenspan, who ran the central bank for 18 years.

"I happen to like your predecessor," he said. "The problem is I didn't understand a damn thing he ever said. … Whether I agree with you or not, at least you are speaking in English."

Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays jumped in.

"I thought it was the responsibility of the Fed chairman to speak in tongues, so I've been a little shocked that I've been able to understand you," he said. "The only other person I have trouble with understanding sometimes is the chairman" Rep. Frank "when he gets excited."

Rumor Looks Right

T. Timothy Ryan appears finally to be headed back to Washington. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. managing director - rumored for seemingly every job that opens up in Washington - is expected to be nominated as Treasury under secretary for international affairs. (Timothy D. Adams, who has held the post since August 2005, resigned Feb. 2, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.)

Mr. Ryan, who ran the Office of Thrift Supervision in its earliest days, has been a perennial candidate. Among the jobs he was reportedly in the running for were that of Fannie Mae CEO, which went to Dan Mudd in May of last year, and Treasury under secretary for domestic finance, which went to Peter Fisher in 2001.

Perhaps the only person whose name shows up on shortlists more often is Terry Jorde, the Cando, N.D., banker who is consistently mentioned as a shoo-in for a Fed seat.

Maybe with Susan Bies, the Fed's only former banker, resigning, Ms. Jorde will follow Mr. Ryan off the shortlist and into the land of public service.

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