Despite the almost constant stream of bad news about the industry, Federal Reserve Board Gov. Elizabeth Duke has found at least one sector to be proud of: community banking.
"I'm very optimistic about community banks," she said in an interview last week. "I think that sort of basic, straightforward, take-deposits-and-make-loans … model will become more important now that all of the financial wizardry has turned out to be not quite so exciting as first promised."
After her nomination to the Fed sat in limbo for more than a year, Ms. Duke was finally sworn in as a governor of the central bank on Aug. 5. The former chief operating officer of Towne Bank in Portsmouth, Va., and former American Bankers Association chairman is the only banker on the Fed's board.
As a policymaker, she said, she would consider issues "from a very practical standpoint" — she will be "looking at this from a banker or bank customer perspective and saying, 'If I were where I used to be, how would I think of this?' "
Don't Count It Out
Rep. Carolyn Maloney is not giving up on the bill she introduced to rein in credit card practices.
The Federal Reserve Board stole some of the New York Democrat's thunder by proposing a rule that would restrict many of the same practices — and goes beyond the bill in many ways. But, Rep. Maloney said in an interview, "My bill will be going back to a new Congress, I'll reintroduce it, and we'll go through the process again."
She said she expects Sen. Barack Obama to become the next president, which would "strengthen" the bill.
The measure passed the House last month — Rep. Maloney noted it had 84 Republican votes out of a total of 312 — but stalled in the Senate.
"It was a bipartisan bill," she said. "I believe that you might have more supporters in the next Congress."
Speaking at an event in New York about women and the economy, Rep. Maloney called credit cards a "very important part of our economy," but it seems she's personally reluctant to accept them.
She stayed around after the event to sign copies of her book, "Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated," which were available for cash or check. Credit cards were not accepted.
Clashing on GSEs
A House Financial Services Committee hearing last week was meant to be forward-looking, but representatives from both sides of the aisle appeared trapped in the past.
Republicans accused Democrats of blocking reform of the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while Democrats claimed it was only after they achieved power that a bill was enacted.
New Jersey's Scott Garrett emerged as the main Republican provocateur.
"A distortion of facts allows" Democrats "to claim the mantle of being a champion of reform in Fannie and Freddie," he said.
When the Republicans had a majority, Rep. Garrett said, they offered "a number of amendments" to reform the government-sponsored enterprises, but "each and every time the chairman and everyone on the Democratic side of the aisle voted against these proposals."
That chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, appeared ready for Rep. Garrett's remarks. His response included a litany of citations, including a book by Mark Zandi, the founder of Moody's economy.com and an adviser to Sen. John McCain, that supported his version of history.
It was President Bush's "one-finger salute," Rep. Frank said, that finally killed a Republican-authored 2005 GSE reform bill that Democrats supported.
But "it is time to move forward," he said. "I wish that the bill that the Congress passed on Fannie and Freddie in 2007 in this committee and 2008 had been passed earlier — and I wish I could eat more and not gain weight."
New Post at Citi
Jimmy Ryan, who has been a lobbyist for Citigroup Inc. the past five years, was promoted last week to senior vice president of federal government affairs. In his new role Mr. Ryan will report directly to Nicholas E. Calio, Citi's executive vice president of global government affairs, and help map out the company's legislative strategy for regulatory restructuring and other issues.
Before joining Citi, Mr. Ryan spent 10 years as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.