The Independent Community Bankers of America recently showered one of its staunchest allies, Rep. Jim Leach, with gifts to mark his last year as chairman of the House Banking Committee.

One gift, presented to the Iowa Republican at the group's late May legislative conference in Washington, took a jab at one of their mutual foes: retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Backed by the small-bank lobbyists, Rep. Leach made it his signature cause in the financial reform fight to stop Wal-Mart and other nonfinancial companies from using thrifts as a way to mix banking and commercial activities. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 barred commercial firms from receiving unitary thrift charters if - like Wal-Mart - they had applied after May 4, 1999; it also prohibited them from buying unitary thrifts.

The group honored that victory by giving Rep. Leach a dark blue sweatshirt with a red slash through the words "Wal-Mart owning a thrift" on the front, and "Mr. Chairman" in white letters on the back.

Rep. Leach played to the crowd, noting he had once rebuffed an invitation from Wal-Mart's president to meet with him in Iowa to discuss the motives behind the company's application for a unitary thrift charter. Rep. Leach said a phone conversation would be sufficient, but the company official insisted on meeting in person to explain how Wal-Mart was seeking to bring financial services to underserved rural communities.

"I read your application," Rep. Leach said he replied. "It doesn't say that."

ICBA president Thomas J. Sheehan - who is chairman and chief executive of Grafton State Bank in Wisconsin - gave Rep. Leach a gavel with the inscription: "A gentle, thoughtful man of high principles, a legislative leader of historic dimensions, and a committed friend of community banking."

Freddie Mac has hired Kirk G. Willison to be vice president for industry and trade relations.He had been director of government and public affairs at Countrywide Home Loans and its affiliates since 1994, but he left after the California mortgage lending giant began reorganizing its lobbying shop.

Mr. Willison's job will be to lobby and coordinate strategy with trade groups. His post is a new one, absorbing some duties handled by Jim Park, who remains Freddie Mac's liaison to community groups.

Countrywide decided to trim its government-relations office and outsource some lobbying functions as an efficiency move, said general counsel Sandy Samuels. Legislative and regulatory affairs will be split among managing director Sidney Lenz, lobbyist Jimmie Williams, and an outside firm yet to be announced, Mr. Samuels said.

Philip S. Corwin joined the lobbying firm of Butera & Andrews as a partner on Thursday.Besides bringing in the American Bankers Association and other clients with interests in bankruptcy reform legislation, Mr. Corwin will help the firm represent home equity and subprime lenders on predatory lending issues.

Mr. Corwin, 50, said he also plans to help Butera & Andrews build its electronic commerce practice. He left his previous firm, Federal Legislative Associates, in March.

Edward G. Boehne retired last week after 19 years as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Mr. Boehne, who turned 60 on May 15, announced his decision to step down last October. First Vice President William H. Stone Jr. is the acting president.

A June 21 memorial service in Los Angeles is planned for Russell A. Freeman, an executive of Security Pacific Corp. when it was the nation's fifth-largest banking company. (Bank of America bought Security Pacific in 1992.)Mr. Freeman, who was 67 when he died in March, joined the bank's legal department in the 1960s and rose to general counsel.

Donations can be made to the Elizabeth F. and Russell A. Freeman '57 Scholarship at Albany Law School, Attn: Joseph Taylor, 80 New Scotland Ave., Albany, N.Y. 12208-3494. For more information, contact Alfred Pollard at (202) 414-3788.

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