The Senate Banking Committee hearing room was tense as Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin sat down to discuss whether new financial powers should be given to bank operating subsidiaries or holding company units.

Mr. Greenspan at times took a professorial tone as he explained nitty- gritty banking issues to Mr. Rubin. When the Fed chairman defined the so- called 23a firewalls that govern transactions among holding company affiliates, Mr. Rubin snapped, "I know that."

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