Magazine article American Banker

Ludwig Stands by His Close Contact with Bankers

Magazine article American Banker

Ludwig Stands by His Close Contact with Bankers

Article excerpt

Attempting to quiet congressional criticism, Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig on Thursday defended his regular contact with bankers.

"Frequent discussions with bankers, bank customer groups, and others affected by bank regulation and supervision are critical to carrying out the OCC's responsibilities as effectively and efficiently as possible," Mr. Ludwig said in a Feb. 6 letter to Rep. Spencer Bachus, chairman of the House Banking Committee's investigations subcommittee.

The letter to the Alabama Republican accompanied a two-inch stack of documents laying out Mr. Ludwig's contact with bankers since May 13.

That's the date of a controversial meeting Mr. Ludwig attended at the White House Democratic party fund-raisers organized for 17 bankers.

Upset by the fact a regulator participated in a political meeting with the people he oversees, Rep. Bachus on Jan. 27 asked Mr. Ludwig for an explanation. Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, followed suit a couple days later.

Lawmakers received the documents late Thursday and had no comment on them at deadline. "Until we review the documents, we don't know what the next step will be," said David Runkel, a spokesman for House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach.

While he has refused to comment on the meeting, in his letter Mr. Ludwig reiterated that he was not aware party fund-raisers were at the meeting and would not have attended had he known they were there.

Mr. Ludwig said he did not know, and therefore could not recognize, Democratic National Committee chairman Donald L. Fowler or finance chairman Marvin S. Rosen.

"It is very important to me that there is no misunderstanding about my presence at the May 13 meeting," Mr. Ludwig wrote. "Even the appearance of political influence in the supervision of national banks should be scrupulously avoided. …

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