It is ironic that on the same day that The Post urges Congress to protect the public from future S&L disasters {"To Make Banks Safer," editorial, Sept. 21}, The Post also calls for the weakening of the most effective law against S&L criminality {"A Chance for RICO Reform," editorial, Sept. 21}.

The Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act provides triple damages for victims of a pattern of specified criminal activity. Civil RICO has been used by victims in defense contractor fraud, insider trading, home improvement fraud -- and, most prominently, in the savings and loan scandal. In fact, a civil RICO lawsuit is the only hope for the victims of Charles Keating's bond scam to recover their losses.

The Post editorial acknowledges that civil RICO was enacted to combat pervasive white-collar crime like the S&L frauds, but fails to recognize that both the Senate and House bills significantly weaken RICO's effectiveness.

Although the House bill is preferable to the Senate's -- adopting a "gatekeeper" approach with a goal of filtering out inappropriate civil RICO suits -- it contains provisions that will provide relief for the accountants, law firms, investment bankers and other professionals who aided and abetted many of the criminal schemes that have led to the collapse of S&Ls and other financial institutions. The House bill will provide a bail-out for those professionals unless it is changed, as proposed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), to preserve civil RICO's remedies in cases of fraud in S&Ls and other financial institutions.

Taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for an unprecedented corporate crime wave that led to the largest financial scandal in history. Congress should be moving quickly to put an end to this crime wave, not weakening the nation's leading white-collar crime law.

LUCINDA SIKES Staff Attorney U.S. Public Interest Research Group PAMELA GILBERT Legislative Director Public Citizen's Congress Watch Washington