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Inside Washington (02/03/2012)
  • WASHINGTON (2/6/12)--The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill making it illegal for members of Congress to trade stocks based on confidential information learned on the job. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act passed 96-3, and will now go to the House for a vote (American Banker Feb. 3). Several amendments were added to the Senate bill. Under one amendment, political intelligence firms, which sell information they gather in meetings on Capitol Hill to financial market participants, must register in a manner similar to lobbyists. Another amendment extends the measure's requirements on reporting certain financial transactions to include executive-branch employees in addition to members of Congress and their aides. An unrelated amendment, passed Thursday, prohibits bonus payments to executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while government-sponsored enterprises are in government conservatorship …
  • WASHINGTON (2/6/12)--Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday warned that the U.S. economy is at severe risk if the rising deficit is not placed under control. "Even the prospect of unsustainable deficits has costs, including an increased possibility of a sudden fiscal crisis," Bernanke said. "As we have seen in a number of countries recently, interest rates can soar quickly if investors lose confidence in the ability of a government to manage its fiscal policy." The current trajectory of federal debt threatens to crowd out private capital formation and reduce productivity growth, Bernanke said. For the economy to achieve stability, U.S. fiscal policy must be placed on a sustainable path with debt relative to national income stable or declining over time, Bernanke said. "Attaining that goal should be a top priority," he added …
  • WASHINGTON (2/6/12)--Responding to criticism from a top House Republican, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the Fed's decision to release a paper that contends that the central bank had a stake in the housing market given its importance to the economy (American Banker Feb. 3). Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said he was "taken aback" that the Fed released the paper while maintaining it does not get involved in fiscal policy. Bernanke said the Fed does have a stake in the housing market because of its importance to the economy and monetary policy. The Fed paper addressed policies that would minimize the number of properties entering the market of unsold homes, improve access to mortgages for credit worthy borrowers, and decrease the number of homeowners who are in the foreclosure process. The lack of growth in the housing sector has contributed to the slow economic recovery, Bernanke said …
  • WASHINGTON (2/6/12)--The Obama Administration will continue to work to wind down Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and will provide additional detail on specific housing market reform plans this spring. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in remarks made to the press late last week said the Obama administration plans to work with Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committee members to craft legislation. Overall, he said, this is a "critical year for financial reform," and added that the administration expects to put "key elements" of new financial system safeguards in place in the near future… 


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