The year-2000 computer glitch could produce a jackpot for pickpockets, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan warned last week.
How? The Fed is ready with "enough currency for any conceivable demand," he said. But bank customers who withdraw money because they fear worldwide computer breakdowns will deny them access to cash on Jan. 1 could be easy targets.
"Walking around with a lot of $100 bills is not the safest way to keep your money," he said. "There are an awful lot of people who are going to be interested in that."
The Fed chief advised consumers to keep their money in banks. "The most sensible thing is to leave it where it is," he said.
Two trade groups astutely sent witnesses from Texas to the Senate Banking Committee's financial reform hearings last week.
"In the old days, they were always from New York," Chairman Phil Gramm said, referring to the home state of his predecessor Alfonse M. D'Amato. "I notice now that they are from Texas. It must mean we have a new sheriff in the county."
Speaking of insider influence, Sen. Gramm denied he blocked financial reform last year because Texas bankers opposed it.
"If there was anyone in my state who was deeply concerned about that, I never really heard from them," he said. "Many people tried to attribute whose stalking horse I was riding. ... I don't find in my state much interest one way or another in this issue. But I think it is an important national issue. If we can write a good bill, I want to do it."
During Thursday's hearing, Hjalma E. Johnson, president-elect of the American Bankers Association, let the insurance agents have it. Mr. Johnson, chairman and chief executive of East Coast Bank Corp. in Dade City, Fla., exploded after a witness for the Independent Insurance Agents of America accused banks of using overt and indirect tactics to pressure customers to buy insurance before approving a loan.
Mr. Johnson's animated defense of the banking industry drew chuckles and stares of disbelief from the audience, especially when he pointed at Sen. John Edwards and quizzed the North Carolina Democrat about extensive bank sales of insurance in his state.
"Have you had any complaints come to you about tie-ins?" Mr. Johnson asked.
"No, sir," Sen. Edwards responded.