Five Senators Say Lay Off WASHINGTON Five key senators, including the two top party leaders in the Senate, asked Atty. Gen. Nicholas Katzenbach to “refrain from any further steps” that is , lay off six already filed and pending federal anti-trust actions against six bank mergers. Cong. Wright Patman, D.-Tex., called this an unprecedented attempt to “put pressure on the chief law enforcement officer of the nation to have the wheels of justice slowed long enough for certain banking interests to receive the benefit of special interest legislation forgiving them for violations of federal law.” The senators’ letter to Katzenbach was signed by Mike Mansfield, D.-Mont., Democratic majority leader; Everett Dirksen, R.III., Republican minority leader; James Eastland, D.-Miss., chairman of the judiciary committee; A. Willis Robertson, D.-Va., chairman of the banking committee; and Wallace Bennett, R.-Utah, top Republican on the banking committee. “As you know,” they told Katzenbach, “two such merger cases [challenged by the Department of Justice] are now in the final stages of divestiture, and the four others are in various pretrial or trial stages . . . The [bank merger] bill passed by the Senate would terminate all six pending cases; . . . the bill reported by the House banking and currency committee would also provide new standards to be applied in . . . three mergeils . . . “Accordingly, we urge that you refrain from any further steps in these cases, particularly the two which are now in the final stages of divestiture . . .” “Divestiture” in this context means that the two mergers that have been declared illegal by the courts are now in the process of being reversed. The senators argued that this should be stopped since Congress is going to pass the law making them all right next year. Patman_.said the pressures from Manufacturers Hanover and other banks “having special interests in this matter” were the worst violation of due process he has seen in his 37 years in Congress and that the five senators’ letter to Katzenbach repudiated “the separation of powers and the independence and integrity of the judiciary.” UNKNOWN TO CONGRESS, a “task group” of the American Bar Association had issued, long before the House subcommittee started its hearings, a study of the merger bill flatly opposing it. Theirreport pointed out that Congress had never before granted immunity from anti-trust laws except in cases of fully regulated industries such as utilities and railroads. This report was to have been voted on for adoption at the annual meeting of the bar association in Miami, but it was never brought up there. “The story before us here this morning is not pretty. It is a story of pressure. It is a story of intimidation. And most important, it is a story of censorship and of a blatant lobbying effort to keep vital information from the Congress on pending legislation.” These were Patman’s opening statements late in September as he laid the entire Bar Association mess before Congress, pointing out that “until today, this subcommittee, the Congress, the press, and the public have been kept completely in the dark about the A.B.A. report.” How much of what Patman said that day about the bar association’s capitulation got in Texas newspapers? When Ralph Zaun, president of the Independent Bankers Association \(whose members are small bankers compared to the American Bankers’ Association fat he favored going ahead and prosecuting the six mergers then in the courts. He said his organization felt the same way. In a private meeting with Patman, some time before testifying before Patman’s committee, Zaun again said he and the independents wanted the courts to crack down on the six. But by the time Zaun got in the witness chair at the subcommittee hearings, he had changed his tune in a startling fashion. Now, he said, “We prefer a position of neutrality in the matter of forgiveness” of the six. What had happened? Patman, with good cause, found it all “very confusing.” Then he painstakingly pulled the _answer out of Zaun. He and the Independent Bankers Association’s legislative committee had met in Milwaukee with representatives of the big mergers, and such was the persuasiveness of what the merger representatives said that thereafter Zaun talked only of “neutrality.” One interesting point brought out by Patman in his questioning of Zaun was that Zaun’s own bank, in Grafton, Wisc., had among its important correspondent banks the Manufacturers-Hanover Bank of New York and the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company of Chicagoboth among the six facing court action. Under questioning Zaun conceded that he had conferred with representatives of both banks about the forgiveness feature of the bill before changing his position. EVEN KATZENBACH melted under the heat. Testifying in August, he said, “I appear today to express the strong opposition of the Department of Justice” to the Senate bill. Then he ticked off, item by item, what he considered to be wrong with it, which was pretty much the entire bill. He said it was an “outrageous” piece of special relief for the six merged banks. But about three weeks ago Katzenbach had changed to the point that he was saying publicly that he could get along with the bill if it was modified a little. Unsubstantiated rumors persisted around Washington that one occupant of the White House had held Katzenbach in a vise under increasing pressure until he made his aboutface pronouncement. Katzenbach has more recently indicated that he would like to come back before the committee and reverse his position again, to what it was originally, but it now looks like his, or any other testimony would be only for the record and not at all likely to change the course of the bank legislation. Hanky-panky within Patman’s committee is a good measure of what the bankers’ association expects of Congress as a whole. Patman has asked for a full and complete hearing on every aspect of the legislation, since it will, after all, directly or indirectly affect every bank account in the country, but the bankers want action now, not after long hearings. So 19 members of the full banking and currency committee15 of whom had never heard a word of testimony on the subjectsigned a petition to cut off the hearings within Patman’s subcommittee and to consider substitute bills in private sessions. Among the signers was Cong. Earl Cabell of Dallas, the financial center of the SOuthwest. That was the beginning. Then, in the final week of the session, when the rebellious 19″ could not muster a quorum for a regular meeting and Patman swiftly adjourned it, they sneaked back in the next dayliterally sneaked into the committee room and for the first portion of the meeting operated with the lights offand voted out a substitute bill that would again give the banks all the breaks. The bill sent over by the Senate had required that the attorney general, if he meant to file an antitrust suit, would have to do so within 30 days after the merger. Patman’s subcom mittee had increased that to 60 days. The final clandestine action of the rump committeemen would cancel out Patman’s modest changes. Patman contends that again the rump session did not have a quorum, but House Speaker McCormack allowed them to file their bill with the clerk anyway. The dispute now will probably go to the rules committee, but Patman supporters feel that the deck has been stacked from the beginning and it is only a matter of time before their defeat becomes final. Gonzalez, commenting on the rump session, put it clearly enough for any Texan to understand: “I haven’t seen anything like this since I was in the Texas legislature.” Patman, meanwhile, has been subjected to his share of abuse in the press. Columnists Evans and Novak have devoted several pieces recently to describinginaccuratelyhow Patman is losing control of his committee, which, to hear them tell it, he has been running as a dictator. One of Comptroller Saxon’s top aides has been writing letters to newsmen here in Washington suggesting that they look into Saxon’s charges that Patman has been aiding savings and loan companies to compete unfairly and illegally with national banks. I telephoned this assistant comptroller and asked what his letter was trying to say, and he denied that he meant anything by it at all. He denied that Saxon had made any such charges. He said that the savings and loan companies are operating perfectly legally. \(Such are the results that can be time probably have its effect. BBUT Patman has been fighting since the days when he tried to get Mellon impeached and failed only because President Hoover whisked Mellon out of the country as an ambassador. Sometimes Patman wins, but not often. The liberal position benefits, though, simply from the fact that he never stops fighting. In his speech a couple of weeks ago acknowledging at
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