Banking and Financial Services Committees Outline their Agenda
The Banking and Financial Services Committees are currently developing their legislative and oversight agendas for the 108th Congress. The Housing Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on the proposed RESPA rule on February 25. As Title News goes to press, a HUD spokesperson is quoted as saying that the agency will probably stay with the broad themes it outlined last summer, while leaving the door open to fairly substantial changes. Brian Sullivan of HUD has indicated that, “We’re looking for unanticipated consequences that we did not think of in drafting the proposal.” He said the goal is to issue a final rule by the summer.
Members of Congress also got off to an early start on two pieces of legislation. The House and Senate introduced bills to prohibit banks from engaging in real estate brokerage. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) reintroduced those measures (H.R. 111, S. 98) on January 7. In addition, The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and financial privacy standards for information sharing are high on the agenda of both these committees. Financial services industry lobbyists are pushing to extend FCRA federal preemption of rules on affiliate information sharing. However, members of a broad industry coalition could have an uphill struggle to keep the preemption in effect since the states would be authorized to make their own rules if federal legislation does not pass this session. Reauthoriz-ation of this expiring legislation is expected to focus debate on whether and how institutions, including insurance companies, can share a customer’s personal information. According to congressional, industry, and consumer advocacy sources, the House of Representatives is more likely to extend the FCRA without major change. However, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), a privacy hawk, believes that the balance struck for information sharing in Gramm-Leach-Bliley was insufficient and that individuals should have greater control and choice in how their financial information is shared and sold. Identity theft also looms as a practical problem. Therefore, according to Sen. Shelby, “The debate over the FCRA reauthorization will likely elevate the debate over financial privacy beyond the terms of the law itself.”
In addition to financial privacy, Chairman Shelby is expected to highlight regulatory relief legislation, restoring consumer confidence in the markets, and overseeing implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act corporate accountability law.
In the House Financial Services Committee, the focus is now on unfinished business from last session, including deposit insurance reform, regulatory relief legislation, interest on business checking, and oversight of the implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.