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Inside Washington (02/21/2012)
  • WASHINGTON (2/22/12)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in a report to Congress outlined a strategic plan for the next phase of the conservatorships of Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco said the FHFA "is contemplating next steps to build an infrastructure for the secondary mortgage market that is consistent with existing policy proposals and will support any outcome of the leading legislative proposals." The FHFA document, entitled "A Strategic Plan for Enterprise Conservatorships: The Next Chapter in a Story that Needs an Ending," suggests that the government gradually contract the GSEs' dominant presence in the marketplace while simplifying and shrinking their operations, and maintain foreclosure prevention activities and credit availability for new and refinanced mortgages. …
  • WASHINGTON (2/22/12)--The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could soon present a model that would bring U.S. accounting rules, known as U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), in line with the International Accounting Standards Board's (IASB) rules. SEC chief accountant James Kroeker told Reuters (Feb. 21) that the agency is "optimistic" it can find a framework. The project has been delayed by other domestic issues, including the development of the Dodd-Frank Act. The SEC and IASB have also been busy aligning their own standards with one another to ease the possible U.S. market transition. The SEC model would likely apply to all sizes of U.S. firms. "Having a model that works for everyone, even if there is a delay in timing, is important, otherwise you ingrain the idea that the smaller companies will never have to change and you end up with a two GAAP system permanently in the U.S.," he said. …
  • WASHINGTON (2/22/12)--As the Federal Reserve pushes for greater transparency in interest-rate policies and emergency-lending programs, that body is itself making many decisions, and taking on vast new regulatory responsibilities, behind closed doors, The Wall Street Journal reported (Feb. 21). The Fed has held 47 votes on financial regulations since the Dodd-Frank Act became law in mid-2010, and 45 of those votes were made by email, not in person. The votes were not publicly disclosed until the Journal obtained them last week. While the closed meetings, and concealed votes, are not illegal, they do represent a change from prior practice. The Fed routinely held open meetings in the past, with as many as 31 public meetings, per year, being held in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the number of open meetings began to decrease in the 1990s and they now rarely occur. The delayed publication of regulatory opinions and, at times, dissents could have an impact on the financial market and Congress, the Journal noted. Fed representatives have said they provide plenty of disclosure on their regulatory work, and noted that open meetings, which are at times scripted, can be inefficient and add little value. "You can have a scripted meeting that does not show any engagement at all," Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo said. However, Tarullo noted he has asked for open meetings on many Fed rules. Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairwoman Sheila Bair said "people have a right to know and hear the discussion and hear the presentations and the reasoning for these rules. All of the other agencies which are governed by boards or commissions propose and approve these rules in public meetings… I think it would be in the Fed's interest to do so as well." 


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