Eight of the nation's major bank holding companies have admitted making "questionable or improper payments" in recent years, according to Securities and Exchange Commission data provided Congress.

In response to an inquiry by Rep. Fernand J. St. Germain (D-R.I.), chairman of a subcommittee on financial institution supervision, SEC chairman Harold M. Williams said no evidence has been uncovered to date, however, that the payments violated federal securities laws.

The SEC's new chairman also renewed his agency's plea for new legislation to deal with improper corporate practices. Overall, more than 400 U.S. corporations have made disclosures of questionable practices and the SEC has instituted 33 enforcement actions for alledged violations of law, with other investigations continuing, Williams said.

The eight commercial banking companies that disclosed voluntarily questionable payments in the past were:

First Commercial Banks, Albany, N.Y.; First Union Corp., Charlotte, parent firm of First Union National Bank of North Carolina; Mercantile Bancorporation of St. Louis; Northwest Financial Corp., North Wilkesboro, N.C.; Security New York State Corp., Rochester; Tennessee Valley Bancorp., Inc., Nashville, owner of Commerce Union Bank; Union Commerce Corp., Cleveland; and Western Bancorporation, Los Angeles and San Francisco, owner of United California Bank, one of the state's five largest banks.