Neil Milner, executive vice president of the Iowa Bankers Association, is in a tricky spot.

His members support their home state congressman, Rep. Jim Leach, but they still commiserate with bankers in other states who oppose the House Banking Committee chairman's plans to freeze for five years the Comptroller of the Currency's ability to expand their insurance powers.

In an American Banker report last Thursday, Mr. Milner said: "There will be strong sentiment and strong opposition as long as OCC language is part of the bill." We took that to mean the Iowa Bankers Association opposed the bill. After the story ran, Mr. Milner called to say Iowa Bankers indeed supports Rep. Leach and his bill to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and provide banks with regulatory relief.

Mr. Milner admits his bankers have "philosophical" problems with the Comptroller's moratorium, but insists the trade group supports the overall bill.

"I am in great shape with the Leach bill," said Mr. Milner. "We have full insurance powers in Iowa.

"So while we are not as concerned with the moratorium, we empathize with bankers in other states who see this as an opportunity to provide additional services to customers," he added. "We understand the give-and- take involved in passing this kind of legislation and are fully supportive of Rep. Leach's efforts."

***

Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. was less than thrilled with Rep. Leach's recent attempts to bolster industry support for his bill.

Rep. Leach closed an Oct. 12 letter encouraging bank CEOs to back his Glass-Steagall repeal bill by offering to review separate legislation requiring banks to assume the annual interest payments on thrift-bailout bonds.

That sort of bargaining threatens the thrift industry's support for legislation to rescue the Savings Association Insurance Fund.

"If Chairman Leach is proposing to sell out the recapitalization of the insurance fund in order to get support for what he calls his modernization bill, I think that would be a real distortion of the public interest," Mr. Hawke said in an interview.

"The recapitalization of the insurance fund is our #1 priority and it should be the No. 1 priority of everyone on the Hill," Mr. Hawke added.

***

They say the wheels of government turn slowly, but that's an understatement for Joseph H. Neely, a nominee for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board. It's been 10 months since his name first surfaced as a candidate.

In December, the Mississippi banking commissioner's name was first bandied about as a possible choice; five months later he was considered the front-runner. Not until July, however, did President Clinton nominate Mr. Neely. Last month, Senate Banking held a hearing on his appointment. After the committee votes, the full Senate will consider Mr. Neely's nomination.

Mr. Neely has learned procrastination is a luxury granted only to those already in federal government. Capitol Hill sources said Mr. Neely was given less than a day's notice for his Sept. 29 hearing.

***

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, famous for his deliberately vague pronouncements, apparently has decided that Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin needs help in the obfuscation department.

At a meeting of the Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board last week, Robert C. Larson praised the Resolution Trust Corp.'s cleanup of what he called "the biggest financial crisis that has happened since the Great Depression."

Mr. Rubin, the board's chairman, broke in with two ominous words: "So far." The meeting collapsed in laughter and cries of "I'm calling my broker!"

Mr. Greenspan volunteered to interpret. What Mr. Rubin meant, he said, was "Don't presume you've sold your stock until it's sold and you've got your confirmation."

Mr. Larson, chairman of Taubman Realty Corp., turned to Mr. Greenspan and said, "That's got to be a first - you clarifying something."

Replied Mr. Greenspan: "You call that a clarification?"

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