Your policy in appointing receivers for failed banks is precisely in line with my instructions given on a number of occasions since I have been Secretary of the Treasury, and particularly during the last few weeks when several questions relating to the appointment of receivers have been brought to my attention.
So that there may be no misunderstanding whatever as to my attitude in this regard, I want to repeat that politics should play no part whatever in the administration of the office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Appointment of bank examiners, receivers, and others under that office should be made on merit, in the effort to secure efficient and impartial execution of the law.
Your action in regard to the appointment of a receiver is approved.
Not satisfied with the action of the Secretary of the Treasury in sustaining the Deputy Comptroller in declining to appoint his man as receiver, the senator appealed to President Roosevelt and the President, after informing himself as to the facts in the case, wrote the senator as follows:
I think this is peculiarly a case where the Government should clear up the whole situation in its own way, with its own officers, and without any regard whatever to anything connected with politics.
The failure of the two banks named and the incidents related in the preceding pages following the biography of Mr. Crissinger have no connection with his administration of the Comptroller's office, but they were introduced in the belief that they might be of interest to the reader as showing some of the annoyances and difficulties encountered by an administrative official in an honest endeavor to discharge his duties in the best interests of the public and the service which he represents, and also to enable him to contrast the attitude of President Roosevelt with that of the two representatives in Congress and the United States senator hereinbefore mentioned when he was advised by the same subordinate official that the man he expressed a desire to have appointed receiver was not qualified under departmental regulations for the position and that it was not considered for the best interests of the service that he should be appointed.
President Roosevelt simply suggested the appointment of the man of his choice when he had the power to have directed the appointment to be made, but when he was advised of the reasons why the appointment was considered inadvisable he readily accepted the views of his subordinate and acquiesced in his decision because he believed the Deputy Comptroller was actuated by what he considered to be for the best good of the service, and President Roosevelt invariably sustained the official whom he believed to be governed by such considerations.
The occurrences related were by no means rare or isolated cases. Many incidents of a similar nature could be recited in the career of President Roosevelt as showing that in all matters of this kind he placed the good of the service above every other consideration.
First Official Act of Comptroller Crissinger
The first official act of importance of Mr. Crissinger after assuming charge of the office was the revision and simplification of the forms on which national banks make and publish the reports of condition required by law in response to the calls of the Comptroller, not less than five times each year.
When Comptroller Williams assumed charge of the office on February 2, 1914, the form of report used on the last call immediately preceding that date contained forty-three items of resources and liabilities on the face of the report and eleven schedules on the reverse side. At that time and for many years previously it had been the practice of the office to make very few changes in the form of the report, as it was held that frequent changes in the form were calculated to destroy its usefulness for comparative purposes, therefore uniformity was considered very desirable and necessary.
The forms used by Mr. Williams for the first and nine succeeding calls after he became Comptroller contained no material changes or increase in the number of items, but the tenth call made by him contained an aggregate of fifty-one items on the face of the report, an increase of eleven, and thirty schedules on the reverse side, an increase of nineteen.
Each succeeding report called for by Mr. Williams was materially changed by the elimination of old items and the substitution of new ones, and the number was increased until the last call made by him immediately before his retirement from office contained one hundred and five items on the face of the report, including those below the total figures and twenty-nine schedules on the reverse side, each containing from three to thirteen items.
The constant changing of the form of the report and the addition of new items with each change was the cause of a great deal of dissatisfaction and complaint on the part of the banks, as their books did not contain the information called for in a way to enable them to readily make up the report, therefore they claimed that its preparation became more and more difficult with each call, and consequently more burdensome, annoying and expensive, so that when Mr. Crissinger assumed charge of the office he had received so many requests from the banks for a simplification of the form, that the first official act to which he directed his attention was a revision of the form by the elimination of all items which he regarded as non-essential and declaring it to be his purpose to return to the practice of the office before Mr. Williams became Comptroller, of maintaining a uniform report blank for each succeeding call. He thereupon reduced the number of items on the face of the form used in his first call for a report from one hundred and five items on the face of the report, including those below the total figures, and twenty-nine schedules on the reverse side, to fifty-eight items on the face of the report including those below the total figures, and seventeen schedules on the reverse side, and rescinded also the regulation made by Mr. Williams that the copy of the report retained by the bank for its files and the copy furnished the newspaper for publication should be a duplicate original, signed, attested and sworn to the same as that furnished the Comptroller's office, instead of a copy as formerly required.
This action of Mr. Crissinger was received with general satisfaction by the banks, and for which he was warmly commended.
With no intention to detract in the least from the credit and commendation so generally given Mr. Crissinger for his prompt modification of the form for reports of condition, at the same time, inasmuch as the Deputy Comptroller was regarded by many bankers as being largely responsible for these objectionable forms, it is deemed proper to state that when Mr. Williams retired from office it was assumed from past experiences by the Deputy Comptroller, who became Acting Comptroller immediately when the vacancy occurred, that some weeks would probably elapse before a successor to Mr. Williams would be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and that the duty of making the next call on the banks would, therefore, devolve upon him as Acting Comptroller. He therefore immediately instructed the Chief of the Statistical Division of the Comptroller's office to carefully revise the report of condition form and to eliminate therefrom all items which were regarded as unnecessary and nonessential, and when Mr. Crissinger assumed charge of the office fifteen days later he approved and accepted this revised form with practically no change and used it in his first call upon the banks for a report.