Savings and loan executives are going to have less control than in the past over the federal agency that regulates them, Federal Home Loan Bank Board Chairman M. Danny Wall said yesterday.
Wall, in his first public appearance since taking office July 1, said he intends to be less influenced by S&L lobbyists than previous chairmen of the bank board, the federal agency that regulates S&Ls.
"It's going to be ... . hard for the agency to continue to be perceived to be too close to the industry it regulates," he said.
That close association, in which the industry has been able to direct many bank board policy decisions, "has been a problem," Wall acknowledged.
Congressional leaders and federal regulators have said that the closeness has allowed S&Ls to get the rules and regulations they wanted in the short-run, but in the long-run has allowed scores of institutions to undertake risky and often fraudulent practices that will cost the industry -- and ultimately the consumer -- an estimated $20 billion to clean up.
Many industry and congressional leaders give high marks to Wall for his first five weeks on the job. John Rousselot, president of the National Council of Savings Institutions, the second-largest S&L lobby group, said Wall got off to an "excellent start" by naming people with strong qualifications to key spots at the bank board.
But whether Wall in fact will be able to loosen the industry's grip on the agency remains the biggest question in the minds of many S&L analysts.
"A key question is going to be whether it's possible to wrest the agency away from industry dominance," said Bert Ely, a banking consultant based in Alexandria. "Wall's off to a good start in terms of personnel and of putting his managerial stamp on the organization. He's to be complimented for that, but that's not the whole ball game."
The really difficult issue of how to close or sell hundreds of insolvent S&Ls has yet to be addressed, and just how well Wall will be able to handle that problem will take many more months to evaluate, Ely said.
Wall's appearance at the National Press Club yesterday came as President Reagan prepares to sign a bill to pump $10.8 billion into the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., the insolvent bank board fund that insures S&L deposits and takes over failed S&Ls.
Wall said that the measure will allow the bank board to begin selling bonds in September and to put money into FSLIC by October. Because of record S&L failures, FSLIC ended 1986 more than $6 billion in the red.
Wall said that his priorities in his new job will be to restore the public's confidence in FSLIC and to rebuild the bank board, an agency that in recent years has been battered by travel expense scandals and by a growing perception that it is mismanaged.
Wall, who previously worked for Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) as minority staff director of the Senate Banking Committee, will have to overcome his image as a political operator to achieve those goals, some lobbyists say.
One financial service industry lobbyist said he was disappointed by Wall's statement yesterday that no one can estimate the ultimate cost of closing or selling hundreds of insolvent S&Ls.
Congressional leaders, using bank board data, have estimated that FSLIC will need at least $20 billion but probably closer to $40 billion.
Wall's statement echoes the position of the U.S. League of Savings Institutions, the largest S&L lobby group. The league unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to provide FSLIC with only $5 billion because many of the league's members don't want to pay the cost of bailing out the sick S&Ls.
Wall said tax money would be used to resolve problem S&L cases only if Congress could find no other way to fund FSLIC, but said he expects the $10.8 billion to be sufficient for several years