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Inside Washington (01/08/2008)
* WASHINGTON (1/9/08)--Small banks are unhappy about the elimination of the Merit program, a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) initiative that was designed to reduce examination costs while bettering relationships between examiners and banks. The agency announced last month that the program would be discontinued, and the news worries some financial institutions (American Banker Jan. 8). The program has worked well, said Terry Frydenlund, president/CEO at 1st Bank Yuma, a unit of Western Arizona Bancorp Inc. He also stated that without the program, bank examiners will “overshoot.” Both the FDIC and its examiners argue that the program is not necessary because exams can focus on risk without Merit guidelines. FDIC employees also indicated in a recent survey that they were dissatisfied with Merit ... * WASHINGTON (1/9/08)--In a few weeks, some borrowers in danger of foreclosure will be able to get help fast-tracking their subprime loans, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Monday. The plan could extend to other types of loans, he added (MarketWatch Jan. 7). Hope Now, an alliance of servicers and lenders, will implement the plan to freeze the interest rates on certain subprime hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (CNNMoney.com Jan. 8). About 45,000 of 1.8 million at-risk borrowers have asked for help, Paulson noted. He also encouraged financial institutions to increase their capital ... * WASHINGTON (1/9/08)--The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) prevented many banks from engaging in risky, high-cost loans that triggered the foreclosure crisis, according to a study by Traiger and Hinckley LLP (BusinessWire Jan. 7) The study analyzed mortgage lending in the nation’s top metropolitan areas. CRA banks were 66% less likely to originate high-cost loans were more than twice as likely compared with other lenders to originate loans from their own portfolios. The study also indicated that foreclosures were lower in areas where the number of bank branches was higher....


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