New Wall Street regulations face hurdles

WASHINGTON — Sweeping regulations to tame Wall Street and protect consumers in dealings with lenders are on the verge of passing the House of Representatives but their fate is hardly sealed.

By (AP)

Published: Tue 8 Dec 2009, 12:07 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:07 PM

Crucial pieces are still flashpoints, fiercely opposed by various sectors of the financial services industry and likely to be fought on the House floor and beyond.

Some proposed changes, if voted on, could significantly dilute the proposed legislation. Top House Democrats will decide Tuesday and Wednesday what amendments to the bill will be considered before House debate on the bill opens Thursday.

At issue are provisions that could affect how homebuyers obtain mortgages, how large firms transact complicated financial trades and how large financial institutions borrow money.

Democrats also were seeking to add foreclosure-fighting measures to the regulatory bill, reviving legislation that would let bankruptcy judges rewrite mortgages to lower homeowners’ monthly payments. The proposal, opposed by bank lobbyists, passed the House earlier this year, but then failed in the Senate, falling 15 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

Democrats have become increasingly frustrated with the pace of loan modifications by mortgage companies. Last week, the Obama administration vowed to crack down on mortgage companies that fail to help borrowers at risk of losing their homes.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank agreed on Monday to include $3 billion in the legislation to provide low-interest loans to unemployed homeowners in danger of foreclosure. Frank added the money, which would come out of the $700 billion financial rescue fund, at the request of Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Melvin Watt.

Watt and Waters are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which had threatened to withhold its support from the legislation if Congress and the administration did not take steps to help the black community out of the recession.

The broader regulatory legislation is aimed at preventing a repeat of last year’s financial meltdown that plunged the nation into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And it constitutes the biggest rewriting of laws governing banks, investment houses and other financial institutions since the New Deal.

It establishes a regulatory oversight council, chaired by the Treasury secretary, to monitor the financial system and identify future threats.

Companies that are so large and interconnected that they pose a risk to the economy would face greater supervision by the Federal Reserve and would have to hold more capital to protect against losses. If they pose a grave danger, regulators could dismantle them, even if the companies are healthy.

Large nonbank financial firms that fail would be dissolved, with bond holders and creditors taking losses. Additional costs of failure would be covered by a pre-assessment on other large firms. The bill would establish rules on previously unregulated derivatives and other financial instruments. Financial companies’ executive compensation practices also would come under the purview of regulators.

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