The death last week of former House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, who was 84, touched lawmakers, regulators, and bank lobbyists who had worked with the populist Texas Democrat during his 37 years on the panel.

Mr. Gonzalez, who had been ailing off and on since 1997, died Tuesday in a hospital in San Antonio, the city he represented in the House from 1961 to 1998. The cause of death was not given. Friends and foes alike saluted him.

Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board chairman: “While we had many debates over policy, he was always civil, always a gentleman. In pursuing his convictions, he never deviated from the deep-seated integrity and decency at the core of his character.”

Phil Gramm, Senate Banking Committee chairman: “Henry B. Gonzalez was the pride of his family, his city, and his state, and for good reason. He was a giant who arose in a time of giants, but never lost his common touch. The Henry B. I knew was a man of pure conviction and dogged determination who made a mark on history, and his passing marks the close of an era for Texas and America.”

Jim Leach, House Banking Committee chairman: “Henry Gonzalez’s historic career was characterized by an unflinching integrity and a steadfast commitment to the ideals of American liberalism.”

John J. LaFalce, the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee: “Texas has lost a great leader and a champion of the poor. For almost 40 years, Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez labored tirelessly and fearlessly in this Congress, providing a fierce voice for the downtrodden and a stubborn moral conscience for his peers.

“As chairman of the Banking Committee, Henry held more than 500 hearings and shepherded more than 70 bills through the legislative process. Because of Henry, small businesses have better access to credit, and more families have a roof over their heads. Henry consistently brought his skill and passion to bear on behalf of those in need, and our nation is a much better place because of it.”

Edward L. Yingling, American Bankers Association chief lobbyist: “He was noted for very long hearings and markups. He would walk through amendment after amendment. It was not always easy to lobby because you never knew what amendment would come in and from what direction. But you had to admire and respect him for the openness with which he ran the committee, though lot of members did not like staying there all night.”

Bert Ely, a financial services consultant in Alexandria, Va.: “He was easy to underestimate, but it was a mistake to underestimate him. He was very smart, very shrewd, and a better tactician than some gave him credit for. … “There were lots of jokes about his iron bladder and how witnesses might be up there for a long time, so it was recommended to not drink a lot of water. He could pontificate and ask questions of witnesses for six or seven hours with no breaks. I remembering testifying once, and I was in real discomfort.”


Rep. LaFalce recently extended a helping hand across the aisle to GOP leaders, who must choose among the slew of Republicans vying for the committee chairmanship. Rep. Leach is vacating the post, as required by his party’s term limit for chairmen.“I have suggested to [House Speaker] Dennis Hastert that since he seems to be having difficulty making up his mind among Marge Roukema, Richard Baker, and Mike Oxley that I could solve his problems” and become chairman, the New York Democrat said in a speech Thursday to a Consumer Federation of America conference here on financial services issues.

“He smiled,” Rep. LaFalce recalled. “I did not take the smile as his acquiescence in my idea.”

All kidding aside, Rep. LaFalce vowed in the speech to spearhead a bevy of pro-consumer bills next year that he predicted would have strong prospects because Democrats have gained seats in both the House and Senate, probably giving the party a more substantial role in setting committee agendas.

The New York lawmaker said he plans to reintroduce bills that would crack down on predatory lenders, prohibit credit card companies from charging unfair fees, toughen the privacy protections in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, outlaw payday lending, and strengthen disclosures on auto loans and leases.

He described such initiatives as natural successors to Gramm-Leach-Bliley — which he said was slanted more toward industry than consumer needs — and he criticized the House and Senate Banking committees for doing “little or nothing” for the average person in recent years.

“Average consumers give limited time and attention to buying insurance policies, making investments, or choosing a broker,” he said. “It is the financial decisions that most profoundly impact their daily lives — buying a home, protecting their privacy, prudently using their credit cards, buying or leasing a car, obtaining short-term credit to get over a financial hump — that take up their time and attention and, increasingly, their concern.”


Industry expert Karen Petrou, president of ISD/Shaw Inc. here, has rechristened her successful consulting practice. Effective Jan. 1, it will be known as Federal Financial Analytics.Ms. Petrou said she would switch monikers to emphasize the firm’s stock in trade: insightful, objective political and regulatory analysis geared toward helping clients launch products or avoid starting business lines that may fail. She also wanted to signal that she recently bought out her remaining minority shareholders and now wholly owns the eight-employee firm.

“People are really looking for the kind of financial-focused analysis we’ve been providing,” Ms. Petrou said. “This name better reflects that.”

Besides, she said, the old corporate identity was too baggage-laden, combining as it did the initials of the firm’s defunct predecessor, the Institute for Strategy Development, and her own name from a previous marriage. “Nobody remembers what ISD stood for,” she said, “and I’m not Shaw anymore.”

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