State regulators were left in the dark last week at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' fall meeting in Dallas.

After more than two months without rain, Dallas was swept by a thunderstorm Sept. 12, knocking out the power in the Wyndham Anatole Hotel where the association was meeting. The strong thunderstorm interrupted electricity transmission to much of Dallas at about 2 p.m. Central time, including power for the Wyndham Anatole - the largest hotel in the southwestern United States.

About an hour into the blackout, the state insurance commissioners huddled together in a dark conference room trying to keep their schedule of events moving. However, they were jolted again when something triggered the hotel's fire alarm, and guests headed for the exits.

"This may be the only time at an NAIC meeting where you see everybody moving in the same direction," joked Neil Alldredge, state relations manager for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

In all, the hotel blackout lasted about three hours.

"Dallas has been without rain for about 73 days," said Herb Perone, a spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers. "That is the first thing the cabby said to me when I arrived here. Now Dallas got some rain, and the NAIC meeting got to see some excitement."

Financial Services Roundtable president Steve Bartlett announced Friday that Charles Schwab Corp. and Hartford Financial Services Group have joined the trade association, raising its membership to 90 companies. The organization of diversified financial conglomerates held its annual fall conference here last week.

Who wants to talk banking when there is so much talk about Ford Motor Co. and its problems with Firestone tires? During a House Banking Committee hearing on identity theft last week, Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, took an unexpected stab at the automaker while explaining the troubles facing a couple whose account information was stolen.The thief used the information to obtain credit cards and make purchases, including a new Ford Expedition sports utility vehicle. Rep. LaTourette said the thief, getting his just deserts, was "probably out there on the road somewhere having tire problems."

Former Visa International president and chief executive officer Charles T. Russell is scheduled to get the American Bankers Association's distinguished service award Tuesday during the latter's convention here.Mr. Russell joined Visa in 1971 as vice president, when the credit card operation began. He went on to head the company from 1984 to 1994. He unveiled one of the first credit card operations, in 1965, for Pittsburgh National Bank, the ABA said.

"Chuck Russell is truly one of the catalysts in the development of the bank card industry," ABA executive vice president Donald Ogilvie said in a statement. "His leadership helped create the convenient and universal bank card system we enjoy today."

The award is intended to honor extraordinary achievements or people who have contributed to major developments in the bank card and payment systems industry.

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