Perhaps inspired by the Easter and Passover seasons, key banking panel lawmakers have sought divine guidance on several matters recently.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm said a few times last week that he's "praying over" what position to take on controversial legislation Rep. Richard Baker had just introduced to overhaul regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The next day, as he was scrambling to put the finishing touches on the controversial bill, Rep. Baker, chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee with jurisdiction over the two companies, quipped to reporters that he was rushing over to the Senate to join Sen. Gramm in "an important prayer meeting."

In keeping with the religious theme, Friends of Phil Gramm (an inside-the-Beltway euphemism for a fund-raising group) last week sent industry lobbyists an invitation that featured six photos of the Texas Republican with a halo above his head and described him as "Texas' Defender of the Faith and Doer of Good Deeds." The invitation was to an April 25 lunch with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In exchange for $1,000 per person or $5,000 per seat with the host committee, lobbyists were invited to "do a good deed, burnish your own halo, and get lunch too."


No one was expected to demand a recount of the ballots Financial Services Roundtable members were scheduled to cast last weekend at their annual meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla. Heading an unchallenged officer slate were Eugene A. Miller, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Comerica Inc. to be the group's chairman, and Ed Rust, chairman and CEO of State Farm Insurance Cos., to be chairman-elect.The Roundtable also was set to approve membership of Chubb Corp. and Prudential Insurance Company of America and the companies' chief executives, Chubb CEO Dean O'Hare and Prudential CEO Arthur Ryan.

Designated to take seats on the Roundtable's 29-member board of directors were: Ramani Ayer, chairman and CEO of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.; John Bachmann, managing partner of Edward Jones Investments; James Dimon, chairman and CEO of Bank One Corp.; Russell Goldsmith, vice chairman and CEO of City National Corp.; Susan Keating, president and CEO of Allfirst Financial Inc.; Kerry Killinger, chairman, president, and CEO of Washington Mutual Inc.; Kenneth D. Lewis, CEO-elect of Bank of America Corp.; Aubrey Patterson, chairman, president, and CEO of BancorpSouth; and Don Shepard, president and CEO of Aegon USA Inc.


The annual meeting of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association may not sound like the party event of the season, but a look at the agenda for the group's gathering in Washington last week reveals that sessions such as "Implementing the Strategic Documentation Review" were hedged about with late-night revelry.The welcoming cocktail reception on Tuesday evening was held in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. OK, tame enough.

But on Wednesday evening the group moved on to the Library of Congress for a cocktail reception and dinner, followed by a 10:40 p.m. "champagne bus tour" of the nation's capital. And on Thursday night, all the stops came out. Dinner and drinks at the National Air and Space Museum were followed by an IMAX movie and finally an "after-hours" party until 2 a.m. in a D.C. nightclub.

No word on attendance levels at the next morning's panel on the "Influence of E-Business on Derivatives."


Though the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s long-awaited reform proposal clarified its stance on various issues, the plan's title was perplexing: "Keeping the Promise: Recommendations for Deposit Insurance Reform."The "promise" was not mentioned again in the 28-page paper issued Thursday, leaving unclear to whom the promise was made or what was pledged.

An FDIC spokeswoman said the title referred to "keeping the promise to the American people that they can always rely on us to provide the best possible coverage for their deposits."

One industry analyst speculated that the real explanation is that the agency was trying to spice up its title. " 'Recommendations for Deposit Insurance Reform' - talk about a yawn," remarked Bert Ely, an independent consultant in Alexandria, Va. "My God, that will put even the most studious policy wonks to sleep. It certainly isn't a sexy title. 'Keeping the Promise' is more of a grabber."


The American Bankers Association has officially launched its revamped affiliate to serve banks that sell insurance.The former ABA Insurance Association and Association of Bankers-In-Insurance completed their merger April 2, and the combined group, the American Bankers Insurance Association, quickly elected officers.

They are: president David L. Holton, president of Wachovia Insurance Services; vice president Thomas D. Murray, senior vice president and managing director of BancorpSouth Insurance Services; secretary John F. Bruder, senior vice president of Minnesota Life Insurance Co.; and treasurer Thomas J. Cook, president of National City Corp.'s Insurance Services Group.

"The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act broadened bankers' insurance opportunities," executive director Beth Climo said. "As more bankers take advantage of these opportunities, it's important that they have one place they can turn to for information and support. That is what the ABIA will be."


Former Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, banker, and president of the California Bankers Association Charles Manatt has returned to work at the law firm he co-founded in 1965, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Returning to the firm's government and international trade and policy practice, Mr. Manatt will advise Fortune 500 and other multinational corporations on global business strategy … Robert E. Loftus, public and congressional affairs director at the National Credit Union Administration, has announced that he will retire in July after two decades with the agency. Mr. Loftus said that after years of lobbying, he is ready for a break and intends to stay in the Washington area and "do nothing for awhile."

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