Texas banker Don Powell, who is expected to be nominated chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., cut short his courtesy calls last week to the heads of several banking trade groups while in town for the inauguration of President Bush.
The president and chief executive officer of $352-million asset First National Bank of Amarillo met Wednesday with the executive vice president of the American Bankers Association, Donald G. Ogilvie, and the group's chief lobbyist, Edward L. Yingling.
However, he canceled meetings with Diane M. Casey, president of America's Community Bankers, Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, and officials at the Financial Services Roundtable. The reason was unclear, but sources speculated that transition team officials advised Mr. Powell to lower his profile.
Mr. Yingling said he invited Mr. Powell, an ABA member, for an informal visit after hearing that he was staying at a hotel across the street from the group's headquarters. The presumptive FDIC chief was demure about the prospects for his nomination, Mr. Yingling said.
"He was very judicious in not talking about the status of it," he said. "We didn't think it appropriate to press him to talk about it except to kid him."
However, Mr. Yingling noted that all indications are Mr. Powell will be President Bush's selection.
A changing of the guard is already underway at the FDIC.Former Florida banker John M. Reich was officially sworn in last week as a director of the agency and attended his first board meeting Friday.
Mr. Reich was nominated in October to succeed Vice Chairman Andrew C. "Skip" Hove Jr., who officially retired last week. Chairman Donna Tanoue, who is expected to be on her way out, praised Mr. Hove at the meeting for exceptional service during his 10-year career on the board. Mr. Hove is expected to take a university position in Nebraska, according to an article in the Omaha World-Herald.
Mr. Reich, who was the chief of staff for retired Florida Sen. Connie Mack, was confirmed by the Senate shortly before it adjourned last month. Mr. Reich had been the president and chief executive officer of National Bank of Sarasota.
At Mr. Reich's first meeting, Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. welcomed the new board member and said that he was pleased to have a former national bank executive on the board. "We were talking before, and he said that as a national banker, he came to view the Comptroller with a certain amount of awe," Mr. Hawke said. "I hope that his experiences on this board don't lessen that impression."
The FDIC also lost its chief of staff Friday; Mark P. Jacobsen resigned a day before the new administration took office. Mr. Jacobsen said that he has not taken another position yet.
Democrats enjoyed their short-lived control of the Senate, which disappeared when President Bush and Vice President Cheney were sworn in.A case in point was Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who on Wednesday chaired a hearing on the nomination of Mel Martinez for Housing and Urban Development Secretary. During the hearing, the usually dry Sen. Sarbanes seemed to draw inspiration from outspoken Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, who was out of the center chair for the first time in two years and was referred to during the hearing as "chairman-to-be."
Sen. Sarbanes made several off-the-cuff jokes, many directed at his fellow Democrats. After freshman Sen. Tom Carper pointed out that his home state of Delaware has "the most financial institutions per capita," Sen. Sarbanes replied: "They don't have a lot of per capita, though."
Meanwhile, Sen. Gramm launched into a brief reminiscence of his attempted affair with the screen legend Sophia Loren. He revealed the story while looking at Mr. Martinez's disclosure form, which included a reference to the time his bid to own a radio station in Florida was rejected.
"I don't know that any time you are turned down, it requires a public accounting," said Sen. Gramm. "I remember when I was a freshman in college, I attempted the bright idea of writing Sophia Loren about coming and going out with me. It was a brilliant idea - I thought it might be so novel, she might do it - but it turned out she rejected me. No one has ever asked me to justify why she didn't think it was a good idea."
Ms. Loren's agent declined to comment, except to say, "Good for her" after verifying Sen. Gramm's party affiliation.
Democrats were clearing out of the Treasury Department last week.Ex-Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and Gene B. Sperling, who was director of the National Economic Council under former President Clinton, appear to be setting up a government in exile at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Summers is scheduled to start this week as the Arthur Okun Distinguished Fellow in Economics, Globalization, and Governance. Mr. Sperling is scheduled to join Brookings today as a guest scholar in economic, foreign policy, and governmental studies.
Before leaving, Mr. Summers bestowed the Treasury's highest honor - the Alexander Hamilton Award - to two figures very familiar to the banking industry: outgoing Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Gary Gensler and Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr.
Mr. Summers cited Mr. Gensler's "judgment, negotiating skills, and ability to build consensus" as "critical to the enactment of important legislative initiatives, including modernization of the financial services industry, regulatory reform of the derivatives markets, and establishment of a sound basis for the growth of electronic commerce."
The then-secretary described Mr. Hawke as someone who "has exemplified the utmost integrity, professionalism, and dedication to public service," and said that he has "set an enduring standard of excellence and has made a lasting contribution to the work of the Department of the Treasury."
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley has named Terry Haines as the staff director and chief counsel for the newly formed panel.Mr. Haines was the chief operating officer and general counsel at the lobbying firm of Boland & Madigan. He had been the chief of staff at the Federal Communications Commission during the first Bush administration.