In April, 1913, immediately following a change of administration in the Treasury Department an anonymous communication was received by the Secretary of the Treasury in which it was charged, among other things, that a representative of the National City Bank of New York at that time and for a number of years prior thereto was furnished with a desk in the office of the Comptroller of the Currency and after each call made upon the banks for a report of their condition was allowed access to such reports and granted the special privilege of compiling confidential information therefrom for the use of the National City Bank.
The Acting Comptroller was called upon for a report as to the truth or falsity of these charges and submitted to the Secretary a statement in detail relative thereto.
The sensational press despatches and newspaper reports sent out from Washington at the time in regard to this matter were wholly unwarranted and misleading. They unjustly reflected upon the administration of the Comptroller's office and subjected a very estimable young lady to undeserved notoriety.
The facts in regard to this matter are as follows:
Mr. Charles McL. Taylor, who had been employed in the Comptroller's office for a good many years, died on November 10, 1903. He was one of the principal clerks in the bureau and a very valuable employee. After his death his daughter, Miss Lotta M. Taylor, applied to the Deputy Comptroller for assistance in securing employment. She was given temporary employment in the Comptroller's office from time to time for periods not exceeding thirty days.
When these employments were discontinued the Deputy Comptroller recommended her for employment to the vice-president of the Riggs National Bank of Washington in connection with the redemption of circulation of correspondent banks for which the Riggs National Bank was the authorized agent. She was then given employment of this nature.
For a number of years, as far back as 1884, the United States Investor of Boston, Dun & Company of New York and one or two other concerns employed, with the approval of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of the clerks in the Comptroller's office to compile for them, five times a year, from the reports of condition of national banks a statement showing the principal items of resources and liabilities, such as capital, surplus, undivided profits, loans and discounts, deposits, etc.
A representative of these concerns could not be allowed access to these reports, so the Comptroller authorized an employee of the office to compile this information with the understanding that the work should be done entirely outside of office hours. The clerk was compensated for his services by the parties furnished with the information.
This work was carried on for a number of years in this manner until the administration of Comptroller Ridgely, when another employee called his attention to the fact that one particular clerk had had a monopoly of this special privilege for several years and requested to be allowed to do part of the work.
This request led to a discontinuance of the work entirely by direction of Comptroller Ridgely, who objected to any employee receiving compensation for information obtained from the official records of the bureau. Mr. Ridgely did not object to the particular information being furnished, but did not think it was proper for an employee of the office to receive compensation therefor.
Later in Comptroller Ridgely's administration the vice-president of the Riggs National Bank applied to the Deputy Comptroller for authority to permit Miss Lotta M. Taylor to compile for the National City Bank of New York the information above referred to from the reports of condition of national banks after each call.
This request was submitted to Mr. Ridgely, who authorized the work to be done, with the understanding that Miss Taylor was not under any circumstances to handle or to have access to the reports of the banks. The figures she obtained were to be taken from the abstract sheets after the clerks were through with them. The charges made in the anonymous communication to the Secretary and the press despatches sent out from Washington that Miss Taylor was allowed access to the reports of condition of the banks and copied confidential information therefrom for the special benefit of the National City Bank of New York were wholly unwarranted and unfounded.
This lady did not have access to or handle the reports of the banks. She did not do her work in the same room where the reports were handled and filed. She had no regular desk assignment, but moved about from place to place wherever she could find a vacant desk. The information she obtained was in no sense of a confidential nature. It was information such as the law required every national bank to publish in a newspaper published in the city or town of its location, and it was so published in every case for at least a week or ten days before this lady had access to the figures in Washington.
There was no disposition on the part of the Comptroller or any officer of the bureau to extend to the National City Bank any special privilege or facilities, as the public were given to understand, or to furnish that bank any information that would not have been given to any other bank applying therefor. The same information could have been obtained, but not so readily, from the published statements of the banks and for one call each year from the annual report of the Comptroller to Congress.
Writers of anonymous letters are invariably either moral cowards or malicious libelers, and the proper receptacle for such communications is the official waste basket, to which they should be consigned. It had been the practice of the department to ignore such letters altogether, but the case in point, for some reason, was made an exception to this rule.