Beset by critics lately, Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. has lashed back at one with a loud and familiar bark.

Mr. Hawke's retort targeted banking consultant and regulatory gadfly Bert Ely, who had berated the Comptroller's office for its supervision of First National Bank of Keystone (W.Va.), which failed Sept. 1 amid charges of fraud. "I think there's some very serious regulatory negligence here," Mr. Ely said Sept. 2. "I have a feeling that the uninsured depositors have a basis for a lawsuit against the government."

During a Nov. 17 appearance before the Exchequer Club, Mr. Hawke praised examiners for their performance in the face of alleged harassment by First National officials and took a shot at Mr. Ely. "I know, Bert, that you have said that all you needed to do was to look at the balance sheet to know there was fraud going on at the bank," he said to thunderous laughter. "That's like one of the dogs at the airport that could sniff out drugs. If we could get you on the staff, we could just run balance sheets by you."

Mr. Ely took the public ribbing with typical good humor. But when Pacific Thrift and Loan was shut down two days later, he was quick to unsheathe his sword again, this time in the direction of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "It looks to me like the institution thumbed its nose at the FDIC," he said.

Speaking of the Exchequer Club, a note to its 100 members: Pay up! (About 25% of the members, who range from banking regulators to lobbyists, reportedly have not paid their annual dues yet.)

The Federal Bar Association Banking Law Committee's annual dinner program with the federal banking agencies' top lawyers could draw a bigger crowd this year as the legal eagles prepare to write the regulations implementing the new financial reform law.The five chief counsels at the dinner Tuesday night will be Carolyn Buck of the Office of Thrift Supervision; Robert M. Fenner of the National Credit Union Administration; William F. Kroener 3d of the FDIC; J. Virgil Mattingly of the Federal Reserve Board; and Julie L. Williams of the Comptroller's office.

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