As president of the American Bankers Association, William T. McConnell has a lot of explaining to do.

Last week he spelled out why the banking industry consistently loses legislative battles to credit unions.

The first problem is lobbying, Mr. McConnell told the Pennsylvania Bankers Association's annual convention in Baltimore.

To press for pending legislation that would ease membership limits on credit unions, the credit union trade groups sent 3,500 customers. To oppose it, the ABA sent 250 bankers, Mr. McConnell noted. The House approved the bill 411 to 8.

Second, bankers are viewed as fat cats. "We're doing too well," said Mr. McConnell,the chairman and CEO of Park National Corp., Newark, Ohio. "That evidently causes a certain amount of resentment."

The third problem is lawmakers' attacks on bank fees. Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., "is trying to get reelected and using ATM fees as an issue, suggesting banks make them available as a public service."

Finally, Mr. McConnell blamed the industry's woes on "lousy press."

With the financial reform bill on the House floor this week, he warned lawmakers about voting against the industry one too many times.

"They ran over us on the credit union bill. We need to let them know if they do the same thing on financial reform they are not going to have any friends in the banking industry, ever."

Travelers Group chairman Sanford I. Weill may be a big shot on Wall Street, but not in the eyes of the Washington press corps.

At a May 5 press conference on Capitol Hill, Mr. Weill spoke in favor of financial reform legislation. A reporter asked him to identify himself. "Pardon?" asked the startled Mr. Weill. When the request was repeated, he asked in a disbelieving tone: "Who am I?"

Rep. Michael Oxley, one of several lawmakers ushering Mr. Weill and other financial executives, later joked with journalists: "When President Clinton goes to New York, do you think people ask him who he is?"

House Republican Conference Chairman John A. Boehner had a similar experience with Capitol Hill reporters last week.

After meeting with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who escaped out a back door, Rep. Boehner took questions from the press.

The Ohio Republican, whose named is pronounced "Bay-ner," expected to be asked about the financial reform bill. However, all the reporters wanted to talk about was Mr. Greenspan.

Q: Is Mr. Greenspan going to talk to us?

Boehner: Uh ... he's, he's gone.

Q: Did any lawmakers ask Mr. Greenspan about the economy?

Boehner: Uh, no.


Boehner: No.

Q: Did Greenspan bring it up?

Boehner: No.

Q: Did Greenspan talk about the economy?

Boehner: No.

Q: And who are you sir?

Rep. Boehner, clearly amused, responded, "Congressman Boner."

Two top banking regulators remain tight-lipped about their futures.

John D. Hawke Jr., under secretary of the Treasury Department for domestic finance, dodged questions last week about the search for the next comptroller of the currency.

He is rumored to want the job, and his evasive answers about the selection process gave that suspicion more weight. Mr. Hawke declined to comment on the status of the search or whether the Treasury has developed a short list of candidates, referring such questions to the White House.

When asked if he wants the job, he responded diplomatically: "I am very happy doing what I am doing right now."

Meanwhile, Andrew C. Hove Jr., acting chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said he has no plans to retire after Donna A. Tanoue is sworn in this month. "My plans right now are to stay on the board and make as smooth a transition as possible," he said.

Mr. Hove's term on the board expires in October 2000, but sources inside the agency expect him to retire by yearend.

At its annual meeting in Nashville, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors named Connecticut Banking Commissioner John P. Burke as chairman.

Richard C. Houseworth, superintendent of banks in Arizona, is the chairman-elect; Massachusetts Commissioner Thomas J. Curry is vice chairman; and Catherine A. Ghiglieri, the banking commissioner of Texas, is secretary and treasurer.

Timothy R. McTaggart, commissioner of financial institutions in Delaware and a former Senate Banking Committee staffer, will head the group's legislative committee.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.