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GARN DESERVES PRAISE FOR ROLE IN S&L CRISIS, FDIC CHIEF SAYS

The man in charge of the nation's savings and loan bailout says Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was one of the few heroes in the S&L crisis.

L. William Seidman, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., praised Garn recently in USA Today - even though many others have sought to blame the S&L crisis largely on him."There were some leaders in Congress who were speaking up about it (the S&L crisis) early on. Congressman Jim Leach (R-Iowa) certainly spoke up about it. Sen. Jake Garn spoke up about it at various times," Seidman said.

Garn's critics say he should have done more to prevent the crisis when he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee from 1981 to January 1987, and as its ranking minority member afterward.

They also blame his Garn-St. Germain Act that deregulated S&Ls for allowing fraud by some S&L owners; say Garn was too cozy with S&L lobbyists; and say that his former chief aide, M. Danny Wall, took over as the nation's top S&L regulator but made decisions that ended up costing taxpayers billions.

Garn, however, has said that the S&L collapse came mainly from the collapse of housing markets in the southwest and the mortgages S&Ls held there, while fraud made the problem worse.

He also tried for years unsuccessfully to recapitalize S&Ls to stop or lessen the crisis but was largely blocked in the House by former Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, (who resigned in part from criticism that he had interceded with regulators for failing Texas S&Ls) and former House Banking Committee Chairman Ferdinand St. Germain, D-R.I. (who lost re-election after disclosures about his vast wining and dining by S&L lobbyists).