With characteristic Federal Reserve Board understatement, Chairman Alan Greenspan was sworn in for his fourth four-year term at the helm of the central bank on June 20.

The ceremony, which was closed to the public, was held in the chairman's office; Vice Chairman Roger W. Ferguson Jr. administered the oath.

Only two days later the chairman received a surge of unwanted - and apparently unwarranted - media attention. Reports that he had been involved in a car accident while attending a meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago sent the stock markets on a brief downward jag until Fed officials quashed the rumor.

A Fed spokesman said Friday that the central bank's press officers had fielded numerous calls from the news media seeking to verify the accident story, which they repeatedly denied. "There was no truth to the rumor," he said. "There was no accident."

A Chicago Tribune headline on Friday summed it up best: "Fed Chief Escapes Harrowing Brush with Rumor Mill."

Vice President Gore may have a penchant for taking credit for other people's ideas, but his Republican nemesis, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said this time Mr. Gore has gone too far.Last week, the vice president unveiled a Social Security reform plan. The presidential hopeful's proposal would create personal investment accounts similar to those he had criticized in campaign opponent Gov. George W. Bush's Social Security platform.

Aside from stealing a GOP idea, Mr. Gingrich said, Vice President Gore added insult to injury by dubbing his reform plan "Social Security Plus," the same name as an Internet-based organization that Mr. Gingrich helped start.

"SocialSecurityPlus.org is a Web site that we founded a year ago. He may have invented the Internet," Mr. Gingrich said caustically, "but he did not invent SocialSecurityPlus."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm also mixed it up with the administration last week.The Texas Republican is never slow to the draw when it comes to criticizing President Clinton, and the release last week of a predatory lending report by the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development departments presented an inviting target.

Counting the days until the President is out of office, Sen. Gramm told the Washington Post through a spokeswoman: "When the Clinton administration sends a report, we are always eager to look at it. We are especially eager to see the last report of the Clinton administration."

Financial Accounting Standards Board Chairman Edmund Jenkins cannot answer the American Bankers Association's taxing questions.This month Donna Fisher, the ABA's director of tax and accounting, asked Mr. Jenkins to "evaluate [FASB's] timetable and consider announcing a later effective date" for new accounting standards for business combinations.

The FASB is considering eliminating the popular "pooling of interest" method of accounting for mergers.

Bankers do not want the FASB to eliminate pooling - but if it does, they want to know sooner rather than later.

"We encourage you to make an announcement as soon as possible," Ms. Fisher wrote in a June 13 letter to Mr. Jenkins. "We have received calls from members who are actively considering merger activity, and they are at a loss as to what the accounting [methods] will be."

Mr. Jenkins could not shed any light on Ms. Fisher's concerns when they met last week at the Exchequer Club luncheon, where the FASB chairman was the featured speaker.

The effective date "is still scheduled for yearend, but we may not make that date. We still have a lot of work to do," Mr. Jenkins said. "I'm not able to specifically respond to Donna's letter."

William J. McDonough, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said last week that under a revised Basel accord, more banks than had been expected may be eligible to use internal ratings systems to set capital levels.The more than 200 comment letters the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision received in response to its proposal to update international capital rules left members "more committed than ever to an internal ratings-based approach," he said.

Speaking to the British Bankers Association in London, he said, "We now envision extending the applicability of the internal ratings method approach to banks of varying sizes, including small and medium-size institutions." Mr. McDonough also hinted that the committee might issue guidelines on how banks should structure internal ratings systems.

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