House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach is mulling whether legislation making it easier for state-chartered banks to cross state lines should be extended to branches of foreign banks.

The Iowa Republican, joined by other senior committee members, last week asked Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin to weigh in.

In their June 25 letter, Reps. Leach, Marge Roukema, R-N.J., and Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., asked the policymakers whether consolidated supervision by one regulator would improve oversight of foreign banks. The lawmakers also asked whether Mr. Greenspan or Mr. Rubin had any concerns about streamlined supervision of state-licensed foreign banks.

The legislation, passed by Congress on June 25, permits state banks to exercise powers permitted by their home state regulators when they branch into other states. However, those powers would be limited to those also permitted to national banks.

The Institute of International Bankers unsuccessfully pushed for state- licensed branches of foreign banks to be included in the legislation. Institute executive director Lawrence R. Uhlick said he is glad lawmakers are still considering the issue.

"There is a compelling case for comparable treatment with state- chartered domestic banks," he said. "Foreign banks ought not have more burdensome regulation."

After 20 years on the job, Sidney A. Bailey retired July 1 as Virginia's commissioner of financial institutions.

"It was a very good run," said Mr. Bailey, 67, who also spent 19 years at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "It's time (to retire). ... You tend to kind of get into a rut, and I think it is especially bad for regulation."

Among his proudest accomplishments, he said, was defending the dual banking system, including the role he played last year in bringing federal and state supervisors together to make interstate banking work. He plans to "just be lazy" for a while and to travel and teach.

Mr. Bailey is succeeded by E. Joseph Face Jr., who has worked for the bureau since 1979 and was a deputy commissioner for four years.

California Gov. Pete Wilson has appointed Conrad W. Hewitt as commissioner of the state's new Department of Financial Institutions.

On July 1, California merged three offices overseeing banks, savings and loans, and credit unions and industrial loan companies into the new department.

"It made a lot of sense to have these depository financial institutions all in one department," said Mr. Hewitt, 60, who had been banking superintendent. "With all the new products coming out in the financial services industry, it's easier for one person to focus on it."

The department, which will have 250 employees and a $15.5 million annual budget, should save $1 million in overhead costs in the next 12 months from the merger, Mr. Hewitt said. No layoffs are planned, he said.

The Senate Banking Committee unveiled its Internet home page on July 1. The site offers testimony from hearings, committee press releases, and recent statements and speeches by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, the committee's chairman.

"Now you won't have to be in Washington to quickly get committee information," Sen. D'Amato said.

"This is another tool which enables our citizens to participate in democracy and the legislative process," said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, the panel's ranking Democrat.

The site's Internet address is: http//www.senate.gov/banking.

Rep. Henry Gonzalez, the House Banking Committee's top Democrat, last week called for the Federal Reserve's 12 district banks to "immediately implement" tighter access to interest rate discussions.

"This is valuable information, where fortunes could be won or lost," he said in a July 2 joint statement with Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.

The lawmakers complained that foreign officials and hundreds of Fed staff members have attended monthly meetings on interest rates since 1994.

Access to the meetings should be limited according to a "strict, uniform code," the lawmakers said.

"If the Federal Reserve is going to adopt a policy of secrecy, it should not be one of only selective secrecy," they said.

President Clinton has nominated Gary Gensler as the Treasury's assistant secretary for financial markets.

Mr. Gensler is a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group. If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed Darcy Bradbury, who left the department in October to work for Bankers Trust New York Corp.

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