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Inside Washington (02/21/2008)
* WASHINGTON (2/22/08)--The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) proposed a plan that would help troubled homeowners who owe more than their home is worth by reducing their mortgage balances to match the current market value of their homes. After reducing their balances, lenders would then write a negative amortization certificate to make up for the difference. If the home is sold, lenders can claim the profits (CNNMoney.com Feb. 21). Thrifts’ adoption of the rule would be voluntary. The OTS estimated that the savings and loan industry lost $5.24 billion in the fourth quarter last year due to troubled mortgages ... * WASHINGTON (2/22/08)--Senate and House Judiciary Committees are working on legislation to limit interchange fees, which generate about $36 billion in revenue annually for the credit card industry (American Banker Feb. 21). Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), House Judiciary Committee chairman, could propose a bill with U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) that would allow the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to appoint three lawyers to regulate fees. Similar legislation could be offered in the Senate. The push to limit fees is the result of the Merchant Payment Coalition, a lobbying group, whose members argue that interchange fees are too high--three times higher than fees charged in Europe ... * WASHINGTON (2/22/08)--The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled two days of hearings Tuesday and Wednesday to examine the conduct of monetary policy and the state of the U.S. economy, Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said. A panel of economists will address the issues during the first day of the hearings, and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify on the second. Witnesses include Alice Rivlin, senior fellow, Brookings Institution; Mark Zandi, chief ecomonist, Moody’s Economy.com; Nouriel Roubini, professor, New York University, and chairman, RGE Monitor; Carmen Reinhart, professor, University of Maryland; and John Taylor, professor, Stanford University ...


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