When House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach addressed a recent Women in Housing and Finance symposium, he could not resist remarking that two women ran the failed First National Bank of Keystone, W.Va.
"Women have broken the 'glass ceiling' in terms of fraud," he joked, prompting laughter from a crowd of nearly 200 policymakers and industry professionals.
Federal regulators seized Keystone in September and accused the bank, which was led by chairman Billie J. Cherry and senior vice president Terry L. Church, of selling and securitizing $515 million worth of loans but doctoring its books to appear they were still income-producing assets.
Ms. Church and another senior executive were charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charleston, W.Va., with burying bank documents to hide them from regulators.
Ms. Cherry was not named in the indictment.
Longtime industry consultant Carter H. Golembe has a message for bankers and lawmakers: Repealing the Glass-Steagall Act was no big deal.Speaking this month at the Bank Administration Institute's retail delivery conference, Mr. Golembe described Glass-Steagall - which erected barriers to separate the banking, securities, and insurance industries - as the "least important" legacy of the Banking Act of 1933.
Mr. Golembe, head of CHG Consulting Inc. and managing trustee of the Support Group for Modern National Banking, said that when Glass-Steagall was enacted, it "didn't relate to 60% of the banks in the United States." By 1999, it was a "nullity."
By contrast, Mr. Golembe said, the law's other legacies - interest-rate regulation and a clampdown on interstate banking - affected the entire banking industry until their demise some years ago.
Also debunking the new reform law recently was Cantwell F. Muckenfuss 3d of the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
Mr. Muckenfuss told a Financial Services Roundtable conference that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is "highly lawyerized" and riddled with complexity, promising "legal fees we haven't begun to imagine."
Is the current corps of bank regulators capable of supervising the large financial services institutions made legal by the reform law?It is a question that worries Wesley S. Williams Jr., a partner with the Covington & Burling law firm, who voiced his concerns at a recent panel discussion hosted by the Washington Legal Foundation.
"There is this terrible problem that the Federal Reserve has: It is paying a maximum of what - $100,000 a year? - to people who are going to have to watch over and manage the affairs of very complex financial holding companies," he said.
Mr. Williams' proposed cure for the problem sounds like a version of the Peace Corps for freshly-minted MBAs: "We need to make it an honorable and good thing for young, strong, intelligent, well-motivated people in the private sector to come and be regulators for a little while and then go back to the private sector."
Which raises the question: Who does Mr. Williams think the banking agencies are hiring now?