Lamenting America's low savings rate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman last week urged Congress to boost incentives for folks to hold onto their earnings.

During a roundtable he hosted before C-Span cameras and a few reporters, the Connecticut Democrat complained that median net financial assets for Americans 35-44 years old total $700 and climb to only $2,600 for people 45-54 years old.

"That's not much to bank on in the golden years," he said.

Sen. Lieberman said he would introduce legislation next year to give parents a $500 annual tax credit for contributions to a retirement account that could also benefit their children. While the money would be off-limits until age 60, the kids could borrow against the accounts for college costs.

Joining Sen. Lieberman on the Nov. 25 panel were American Bankers Association spokeswoman Virginia Dean, former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Fred Goldberg, Securities Industry Association tax policy director Frank Toohey, and think tank economists Howard Rosen, John Endean, and Sam Beard.

At Sen. Lieberman's urging, the panelists offered a variety of remedies for lawmakers to consider, including expanding individual retirement accounts and replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.

Ms. Dean argued the ABA and other financial trade groups should do more to teach kids the value of saving.

To counter the unbridled consumption encouraged on television, Mr. Endean, vice president of the American Business Conference, mused that it's time for a sitcom "about economists and accountants."

"That's stretching it a bit," Sen. Lieberman rejoined.


Ronald F. Bieker has been promoted to deputy director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s compliance and consumer affairs division.

The eight-year agency veteran was formerly an associate director in the division. During his tenure at that post, Mr. Bieker revamped the FDIC's compliance exams.

In his new job, he will help director Carmen J. Sullivan oversee enforcement of consumer protection and civil rights laws.


A group of eight banking lawyers from the Venable law firm's Washington and Baltimore offices has split off to form a new firm focused on consumer banking issues.

Hudson Cook, named after partners Thomas B. Hudson and Robert A. Cook, will open for business Jan. 2 in Washington and Crofton, Md. Joining the eight Venable lawyers will be Elizabeth A. Huber, managing counsel of Toyota Motor Credit Corp., and consumer finance lawyer Timothy P. Meredith.

James L. Shea, Venable's managing partner, said that his firm and Hudson Cook will refer clients to one another.

"It makes sense for them to start their own shop and focus solely on this," Mr. Shea said. "It was a little out of the mainstream for us."


The insurance industry came out swinging when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently finalized its op- sub regulation, issuing scathing news releases and pledging to lobby Congress to shut down the rule.

But the award for the most colorful quote goes to Douglas S. Culkin, executive vice president of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.

"The OCC is like a car racing out of control, driven by America's most powerful banks and moving with reckless disregard for the interests of the consumer," Mr. Culkin said in a statement released last week. "It's time for Congress to apply the brakes."


Robert J. Giuffra, chief counsel for the Senate Banking Committee since 1994, returned to the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell last week as a senior associate.

Beyond his Whitewater duties, Mr. Giuffra played a key role in the committee's handling of the Mexican peso crisis. He also drafted the Securities Litigation Reform Act, which limited shareholder lawsuits.

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