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Inside Washington (02/03/2010)
* WASHINGTON (2/4/10)--Ben Bernanke was formally sworn in for a second four-year term as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Wednesday in Washington. Bernanke began his second term on Monday following his confirmation by the Senate on Jan. 28 and a hearing on Dec. 3 by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. His term as chairman ends Jan. 31, 2014, and his 14-year term as member of the board ends Jan. 31, 2020 ... * WASHINGTON (2/4/10)--Lawmakers are criticizing President Barack Obama’s proposal to tax big banks and told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday that the proposal is counterproductive. The tax applies to financial service companies with more than $50 billion in assets. Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) asked why banks that did not receive Troubled Asset Relief Program funds or that repaid the funds would be taxed. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he fears the tax will be passed on to consumers (American Banker Feb. 3). Bankers could reduce compensation payments to make up for the tax, Geithner said. Modest reductions would help absorb the fee, he added. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the administration could tie a bank’s tax rate to its compensation practices. Banks that have responsible practices would see no loss in benefits, he said ... * WASHINGTON (2/4/10)--Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), said his hands may be tied on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a letter to Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees Tuesday that (American Banker Feb. 3). While there are some options available for the two post-conservatorship, the only option that FHFA may implement is to bring the two companies back under their current charters. DeMarco’s letter comes after lawmakers questioned the futures of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The enterprises have been in conservatorship since 2008 ... * WASHINGTON (2/4/10)--Policymakers should work on creating tougher underwriting standards instead of proposing to require lenders to retain a portion of loans they securitize (American Banker Feb. 3). The proposals are “indirect and imprecise,” said John Dugan, Comptroller of the Currency. If policymakers want to achieve quality underwriting, they should establish minimum standards that can be applied to all mortgages for a level playing field, he added. There are four areas where regulators can mandate the minimum standards: down payments, income verification, debt-to-income ratios and qualifying borrowers for higher rates if their monthly payments will increase ...


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