The two leading candidates to succeed Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, as chairman of the House Banking Committee are taking very different approaches to currying favor with House leaders, who will choose the new chairman if Republicans retain their majority after the elections.
Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., said she is actively working with members of the Banking Committee who have proposed legislation or want to schedule hearings next year. What she is not doing, she said, is helping fellow Republicans raise money for their campaigns - something her rival, Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., is doing with gusto.
"I'm not saying it with Mr. Baker necessarily, but there's a lot of buying of chairmanships going on out there. That I have not been doing," Rep. Roukema said in an interview last week. "I don't think you should buy a chairmanship. I think you should earn it on the basis of your legislative leadership and how you work with people on the substance of the issues."
Rep. Baker says he is just doing his Republican duty.
"There's no secret I have been significantly involved in helping members raise money. I have hosted probably 25 events," he said Thursday. "I think it is a part of our responsibility to help other members get elected. To that end I will make no apology that I am aggressively helping other members get elected. Now, what effect if any that has on the speaker's decision about the way the chairmanships will be selected I have no expectation."
SunTrust Banks Inc. is lobbying Congress for last-minute legislation that would rebate to the Atlanta company $17 million of deposit insurance premiums.SunTrust has been embroiled in a disagreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. over premiums the bank paid on deposits it acquired from thrifts in 1993 and 1994. The agency recently said that it had improperly instructed 69 banks on how to calculate assessments for these deposits. Some banks were found to have overpaid and are being reimbursed $7 million, but the FDIC said SunTrust is owed nothing.
The company disagrees and contends that the FDIC is misinterpreting a law governing how banks should account for changes in the size of deposits following acquisitions. It is trying to persuade lawmakers to include an amendment to a spending or other unrelated bills that would clarify that SunTrust's interpretation is the proper one.
"We've gotten good support," said Raymond Fortin, general counsel for SunTrust, who added that at least five other banks are pushing for the legislation. "When people hear our argument, it makes sense to them."
But FDIC Chairman Donna Tanoue says that the legislation would dilute the Bank Insurance Fund and unfairly force other banks to pay more premiums, among other things.
"This amendment, if adopted, would benefit SunTrust Bank and a limited number of other financial institutions and would weaken the deposit insurance funds," Ms. Tanoue wrote in a Sept. 12 letter to House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach. "It is clear that no legitimate public policy purpose would be served by this proposal."
Rep. Leach told SunTrust officials Wednesday that he also opposes the legislation authorizing a rebate, a committee spokesman said. "He thinks it's chutzpah for SunTrust to be asking the Congress to intervene," the spokesman said. "It is his view that it is an administrative matter between bank and the FDIC."
The American Bankers Association formally installed a new president and officers at its convention last week in Washington.Donald R. Mengedoth, chairman of Community First Bankshares in Fargo, N.D., was elected president, succeeding Hjalma E. Johnson, chairman and CEO of East Coast Bank Corp. of Dade City, Fla.
The ABA also named James E. Smith, president and CEO of Citizens Union State Bank and Trust in Clinton, Mo., as president-elect; Aubrey B. Patterson Jr., chairman and CEO of BancorpSouth Bank of Tupelo, Miss., as first vice president; and James F. Beall, chairman, president and CEO of Farmers and Merchants Bank in Centre, Ala., as treasurer.
In addition to a new boss, ABA lobbyists have new marching orders. Defending the industry from overreaching new privacy laws tops the group's list of legislative priorities. Lobbyists will also work to reform bankruptcy laws, raise deposit insurance coverage, stop predatory lending practices while protecting legitimate subprime lending, and find additional sources of liquidity for community banks.
The Treasury Department learned Friday not to ask a Federal Reserve Board Governor to play the part of Nostradamus. At its Conference on Electronic Financial Transactions, Treasury asked Fed Vice Chairman Roger W. Ferguson to offer pithy predictions on how financial transactions will be conducted a decade from now."It's always dangerous as a Fed governor to write 'pithy' predictions, so I admire and in some sense question the wisdom of the organizers," responded Mr. Ferguson.
"My prediction is that recent trends will continue," he said cautiously. "Check and cash will continue to be with us for a long time."
Asked by CNNfn moderator Bob Beard about the role of regulators in furthering e-payment systems, Mr. Ferguson said that agencies should stand by and watch developments before taking action.
"Regulation will, if it is wise, allow competition to develop, allow this sort of creative structure to develop and then step in as problem areas become a little clearer," Mr. Ferguson said. "I think anything else risks having regulation in the wrong areas."
As for other predictions offered by panelists, National Automated Clearing House Association president Elliott McEntee said he expects banks to combine ACH, credit card, and debit card networks in the near future. But he issued a half-joking warning about nonbanks offering similar networks to capitalize on e-payment systems.
"I believe the nonbanks will create their own payment network and there will be a couple of large banks that support settlement through transactions of that network," Mr. McEntee said. "I think because that network will be far more liberal than the banking network, that network will have more volume. However, 11 years from now that network will go out of business because of massive fraud, because the nonbanks did not take risk management as seriously as the banking industry."
As for any bias in his remarks, Mr. McEntee added, "You can tell I work for the banking industry."