Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer caused a stir last Thursday when she canceled a speech to the New York State Bankers Association at the last minute. Ms. Helfer flew to New York, but turned around and took the next plane back to Washington.

No one at the agency will say why Ms. Helfer had to hurry back, but rumors circulated that her request to meet with President Clinton to talk about legislation fixing the weak thrift fund was granted.

Reportedly, Ms. Helfer wanted to urge the President to include the rescue in legislation on the federal government's debt ceiling increase, which must be passed by Friday.

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The Senate Banking Committee gets a chance Tuesday to interrogate President Clinton's three nominees to the Federal Reserve Board.

Few expect Alan Greenspan to have any trouble in his bid for a third four-year term as chairman. But committee members could grill Washington University professor Laurence H. Meyer and Alice M. Rivlin, director of the Office of Management and Budget, on how much economic growth they are willing to sacrifice to hold inflation in check.

Mr. Greenspan expects to be busy that day. He is scheduled to chair a Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Not that the Fed and the Senate haven't tried to accommodate the chief central banker. The Fed is starting the open market committee meeting two hours early, at 8 a.m., while the Senate delayed its hearing an hour, to 11 a.m.

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The Financial Institutions Insurance Association has a new Washington- based counsel. Kathleen W. Collins, a partner at the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, replaces Allen L. Raiken and Stanton P. Sender, both of whom passed away last year. Ms. Collins joined the law firm in January as head of its financial institutions regulatory practice. She had been a partner at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. For 11 years, Ms. Collins was general counsel for the National Bank of Washington, which failed in 1990.

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Putting things in perspective ... Jerry Jordan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, told bankers attending a compliance conference in Orlando last week that restrictions on bank securities powers have outlasted the Iron Curtain. "I never would have thought the Berlin Wall would have come down before Glass-Steagall, but it did," Mr. Jordan said.

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Sometimes it's better to stay home. Bobby Jean Norris, the FDIC's fair- lending chief, tried to fly to Orlando last week for the BAI compliance convention. But her plane ticket was for the wrong date, and when she finally got to the hotel, it had lost her reservation.

The hotel staff took pity on her and found her space. "Maybe I looked like a needed a little help," she said.

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