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Inside Washington (04/28/2011)
* WASHINGTON (4/29/11)--In the first-ever press conference held by the Federal Reserve, Chairman Ben Bernanke steered the discussion toward monetary policy. Bernanke’s remarks focused on the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision Wednesday to keep the federal funds rates unchanged and its intent to complete a $600 billion bond purchase in June (American Banker April 28). Bernanke was not asked questions about the banking industry, the interchange proposal or the credit market. Though the press conference is viewed as a step toward transparency within an agency guarded in secrecy, Bernanke did not address that topic directly. He said the benefits of speaking directly with the press outweigh some of the risks, despite the argument that some remarks by the chairman might create market volatility. During the press conference, Bernanke warned that the deficit is by far the most pressing economic concern for the U.S. … * WASHINGTON (4/29/11)--In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that businesses may require customers to sign binding arbitration agreements that prohibit them from joining class-actions (American Banker April 28). The decision is viewed as a victory for banks and other corporations, but a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act allows the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to potentially limit arbitration agreements. Jo Ann Barefoot, a co-chair with Treliant Risk Advisers and a former deputy comptroller at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said she believes consumer advocates will turn to the CFPB in the wake of the ruling. Barefoot said mandatory arbitration has been a major complaint of consumer groups for years and Dodd-Frank provides leeway for the CFPB to overturn the ruling. Mandatory arbitration agreements often are used for credit cards, auto financing, installment loans and checking and deposit accounts. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the CFPB to study the use of the agreements in connection with consumer financial products and provide a report to Congress. The act also allows the agency to issue rules that may limit or prohibit arbitration agreements if it determines that it would protect consumers ... * WASHINGTON (4/29/11)--The Federal Reserve is featuring three cities in a series of video reports that showcase promising neighborhood stabilization efforts in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. The announcement was made on Wednesday by Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Governor Elizabeth A. Duke at the 2011 Federal Reserve Community Affairs Research Conference in Arlington, Va. “Over the last several years, every community across the country has felt the effects of the financial crisis,” said Duke. “Foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned properties threaten neighborhoods nationwide, and community leaders are working to stabilize those neighborhoods. While the problem touches every community, it doesn’t look the same in each because it’s shaped by the circumstances that prevailed in those neighborhoods before the crisis hit. The neighborhoods featured are in Phoenix, Detroit and Cleveland. The videos are featured on the Federal Reserve Web site


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