Reports of Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr.'s resignation have been greatly exaggerated.

Such talk, first heard by many industry observers in January, was revived last week when Rep. Ken Bentsen told a group of community bankers that Mr. Hawke had submitted his resignation letter.

Word quickly spread, and Rep. Bentsen was clearly surprised when a reporter called him Thursday to confirm the story. The Texas Democrat said he was not trying to start a rumor, but was only passing on what he had heard in casual conversation. "It was just an off-the-cuff remark," Rep. Bentsen said. "I was under the impression that Mr. Hawke had already said he was not going to stick around."

But a spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency adamantly denied speculation that Mr. Hawke plans to leave or had resigned, saying it was "absolutely false."

A chagrined Rep. Bentsen said that he had heard Mr. Hawke - a Democratic appointee - had told the White House he would resign whenever President Bush wanted to name a replacement, but that he now believed that the rumor was "obviously incorrect." He said he was not prepared for the reaction his comments generated.

"I thought I would have to be chairman of the Federal Reserve to have this kind of clout," Rep. Bentsen said in an interview Thursday. "This experience has given me a whole new perspective on being a lowly member of the House of Representatives."

Rep. Bentsen has apologized to Mr. Hawke.


Is that an aye or an I?Last week House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley proved that he was not about to slow things down just because all but one member of his panel left a hearing to cast a vote on the House floor.

With a bemused Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., looking on, the Ohio Republican passed his own amendment by voice vote - with only his own voice voting. The change would allow banks to pay interest on business checking accounts.

Rep. Oxley then quickly proceeded to approve the full bill - again all by himself.

An Oxley spokeswoman said she talked to the two lawmakers afterwards. "'Geez, I guess I'm more powerful than I thought,' " she quoted Rep. Oxley as saying. Rep. Watt told her: "'Yeah, he was trucking.' "


John E. Robson, deputy Treasury secretary under the first President Bush and father of the first comprehensive legislative proposal to overhaul the Glass-Steagall Act, may be returning to Washington after nine years out of public life.The younger President Bush announced last week that he plans to nominate Mr. Robson, currently a senior adviser at the investment banking firm of Robertson Stephens in San Francisco, as president of the Export Import Bank.

The usually inconspicuous government-run financier, cherished by big business because it helps American multinationals finance sales of their products overseas, began making front-page news last month, when the President announced plans to cut its $865 million lending authority by 25%. The business community is not happy.

Mr. Robson - clearly experienced at not saying anything to jeopardize his confirmation - declined Friday to comment on the funding debate or "any matters of substance" until he is cleared by the Senate Banking Committee, which has not set a date for the hearing.

"I'm filling out the damn forms right now," said Mr. Robson, a fly-fishing buddy of Vice President Cheney who raised money in California for George W. Bush's campaign. He was under secretary of transportation under President Johnson and chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board under President Ford.

Asked if private-sector banks could fill the scaled-back role President Bush seems to want for the Ex-Im Bank, Mr. Robson offered a clue. "As a matter of policy, you want to maximize the use of private-sector financial institutions," he said. "The Export-Import Bank is not intended to compete with private-sector institutions. Its role is that of promoting exports and providing financing for exports that may not be available through orthodox channels."

The President's first choice for Ex-Im Bank chief was Florida real estate developer Mel Sembler, who declined to post because of a potential conflict of interest. In a letter to the President, Mr. Sembler said that as a developer he is a personal guarantor of construction loans from banking companies, including First Union Corp. and Bank of America Corp., that also receive Ex-Im Bank guarantees.

Mr. Robson, who serves on the boards of a half-dozen nonfinancial companies, assured American Banker that he has no such conflicts.

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