During introductory remarks at last week's money-laundering hearings, House Banking Chairman Jim Leach surprised everyone -- including the Russian parliament members in attendance -- by abruptly switching from English to Russian.

"Americans and Russians together successfully fought the greatest war of our times, World War II, against the forces of fascism," the Iowa Republican said in Russian. "This hearing is held to underscore the help Congress wants to give the Russian people and reformers in the Duma. We want money stolen from Russia by a new class of corrupted politicians and entrepreneurs returned to Russia for the benefit of the Russian people."

Though the Congressional Research Service translated the speech, Rep. Leach has a working knowledge of the Russian language, dating back to his school days. His dream of speaking to the Russian people in their native tongue may have been realized: A committee spokesman said the British Broadcasting Corporation aired parts of the hearing on Russian television.

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President Clinton last week announced plans to nominate Gregory A. Baer as assistant secretary for financial institutions at the Treasury Department.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Baer would assume the job vacated by Richard S. Carnell, who left Treasury this summer to teach law at Fordham University in New York. Mr. Baer has been deputy assistant secretary since October 1997 and is one of the agency's liaisons to Capitol Hill on financial reform legislation.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Mr. Baer spent seven years at the Federal Reserve Board and rose to managing senior counsel. He worked at the Fed on proposals to expand Section 20 securities underwriting powers for bank holding companies. Before joining the Fed he was an associate with the Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington.

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More than two years after leaving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Ricki Helfer is making another career shift.

The former FDIC chairman completed her term on the board of governors of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange this summer and left her senior fellowship at the Brookings Institution to join the faculty of American University's law school. She is scheduled to start in January as director of the Washington university law school's new program in financial institutions regulation.

Ms. Helfer said she was drawn to the university's large number of international students many of whom could become political leaders in their countries, she said. "This is my opportunity to have a long-term impact on financial institutions reform in emerging-market countries."

She has also joined the boards of a new Internet financial services company, called Community Bank Partners, and LifePoint Hospitals Inc., a Nashville-based operator of rural hospitals.

Ms. Helfer emphatically shot down a widely circulated rumor that she is a candidate for the presidency of America's Community Bankers. "I am in no discussions with ACB about any position and have no interest in any ACB position," she said. "There is no truth to it whatsoever."

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Nine months of retirement apparently was enough for Nicholas Ketcha, former director of the FDIC's supervision division. The 56-year-old Mr. Ketcha, who left the FDIC last December, on Tuesday is to take over as acting head of the New Jersey Division of Banking.

State Senate approval is required and is expected.

Asked what tempted him away from a life of leisure in his home outside Princeton, N.J., Mr. Ketcha joked, "My wife was tired of having me around the house."

In his new position, Mr. Ketcha would work with a staff of 100 and a $6.6 million budget. He would oversee regulation of state-chartered banks, working closely with federal regulatory agencies, including his former colleagues at the FDIC.

A prior commitment would force Mr. Ketcha to take a leave of absence at the end of October. He will spend three weeks advising central bankers in Ukraine as a member of the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, which sends retired financial services professionals to aid developing countries.

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Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm works with a religious zeal, as his remarks at a committee vote last week showed. In praising the success of Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., in drafting a bill that had numerous critics, he said:

"When you are trying to do the Lord's work in the devil's city, Satan is seen everywhere.... I will be there with you to help smite him down."

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Frank Fernandez has joined the Securities Industry Association as senior vice president, chief economist, and director of research. He had been a managing director at Medley Global Advisors, which advises hedge funds and trading desks. He has also worked at Merrill Lynch, Manufacturers Hanover, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Mr. Hernandez succeeds Jeffrey Schaefer, who retired in October 1997 and now is a consultant to the association.

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