Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, was in an uncomfortable spot when the June 3 Washington Post quoted him as explaining that bankers aren't eager for financial reform.

"Our members don't think they necessarily need a financial modernization bill right now," Mr. Yingling told the newspaper.

It's no secret that bankers are lukewarm to reform legislation now that regulators and courts have expanded their securities and insurance powers. But the ABA doesn't want to flaunt the industry's ambivalence.

So Mr. Yingling quickly penned a note to House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach stating that the Post, "unfortunately, left a misleading impression of ABA's position."

While the ABA opposes some reform proposals, Mr. Yingling said, "we do want to work with Congress to enact modernization legislation."

Nicolas P. Retsinas wants thrifts to remember their roots.

Anticipating National Homeownership Week, which runs through Saturday, the Office of Thrift Supervision director sent a letter to all thrift executives, complimenting them for their role in housing finance and urging them to keep it up.

Mr. Retsinas joined House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Rick Lazio, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, and others last week to help build two homes in Anacostia, a neighborhood in southeast Washington, D.C.

This week, Mr. Retsinas embarks on a 20-city, six-day tour to promote homeownership.

"It could be interesting, but we'll see how I feel when I get back," joked a somewhat weary-looking Mr. Retsinas, who is also HUD's assistant secretary for housing and a director of the Federal Housing Finance Board.

Mr. Retsinas took the OTS job with the understanding it would be a temporary appointment. But that was eight months ago. In January, President Clinton nominated White House aide Ellen S. Seidman to take over as permanent OTS director, but her nomination has languished in the Senate Banking Committee.

Senate Banking Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato has been uncharacteristically quiet since receiving a General Accounting Office report on ATM surcharges May 16.

A spokesman for Sen. D'Amato even refused to confirm whether the New York Republican, a vocal critic of the fees, has seen the much-anticipated study.

It may be that GAO didn't come down as hard on banks as Sen. D'Amato would have liked. Or, he may be keeping the report under wraps while he finishes writing a bill outlawing the fees.

To gather ammunition for a bill outlawing the charges, Sen. D'Amato in December asked GAO to determine how many financial institutions levy surcharges, the average fee, and the effect of surcharges on consumer use.

Joel I. Klein's nomination to head the Justice Department's antitrust division is in trouble.

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., has put a hold on the appointment, which means the Senate cannot consider the nomination. Sen. Hollings is upset that Mr. Klein, who is acting assistant attorney general for antitrust, approved the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX. Mr. Klein also is spearheading the review of whether Visa and MasterCard may legally prevent member banks from offering competing cards. u

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