Griffith L. Garwood, director of consumer and community affairs at the Federal Reserve Board, is taking advantage of an early retirement program. However, the 29-year Fed veteran is waiting to step down until the last day of the buyout program, May 31.

Though he plans to remain in the Washington area, Mr. Garwood said, he has not decided whether he will look for a new job or retire. "As for the future, who knows," he said. "I have several months to think about it."

Mr. Garwood, 57, joined the Fed in 1968, taking a post in the consumer division where he wrote the original Truth-in-Lending rules. He also held posts in the Fed's legal department and was deputy secretary to the board. He became director of consumer and community affairs in 1981, leading a rewriting of Community Reinvestment Act and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act rules.

"This was fun and difficult," Mr. Garwood said. "It was very challenging trying to help guide the board on these difficult and sensitive matters."

Fed Governor Laurence H. Meyer, chairman of the consumer affairs committee, said Mr. Garwood will be missed. "I have relied heavily on his knowledge and good judgment," he said. "I am fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with Grif."

The waiting continues for Ellen S. Seidman, the White House aide nominated in January to be director of the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato may be putting off a hearing on Ms. Seidman until President Clinton nominates Laura Unger, one of the New York Republican's top aides, to fill a long-vacant Securities and Exchange Commission seat.

"How fast the Clinton administration's nominations move is tied to Ms. Unger being nominated to SEC," said one staffer. (The White House has said it will nominate Ms. Unger but has not done so yet.)

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Seidman would replace Nicolas P. Retsinas, who has been running the agency since October. Mr. Retsinas also is the Department of Housing and Urban Development's assistant secretary for housing and a director on the Federal Housing Finance Board.

Sen. Jack Reed is planning to introduce legislation that would limit to $50 the consumer liability for lost or stolen debit cards.

The Rhode Island Democrat said he is worried that consumers don't realize the contents of their bank accounts are at risk when they own these cards.

"A thief could steal someone's debit card and empty that person's checking account before they even know the card is missing," Sen. Reed said last week. The lawmaker is expected to introduce his bill Wednesday.

MasterCard International voluntarily capped consumer liability at $50 in July; Visa USA matched the plan in August and added that debit card issuers must cover all losses by cardholders who report missing cards within two days.

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