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Inside Washington (08/02/2011)
* WASHINGTON (8/3/11)--Debt issuers with procedures “reasonably designed” to prevent debit-card fraud may be eligible for a one-cent increase in their debit interchange fees, according to the final rules issued by the Federal Reserve in June (American Banker Aug. 2). The new rules take effect Oct. 1. But many issuers fail to meet best-practice fraud protection standards, and meeting the demands that risk presents may not cover debt issuers’ costs, according to Beth Robertson, director of payments research for Javelin Strategy & Research. The Fed has not provided specifics on the level of fraud protection debit issuers will be required to provide. The board is gathering industry comments on its final rule--including the fraud-prevention allowance--through Sept. 30. The financial institutions with the most efficient fraud prevention procedures may be compensated for the one-cent allowance, but other operators could be left out, according to Mahesh Makhija, head of the cards and payments practice at Infosys Ltd.’s Infosys Technologies unit … * WASHINGTON (8/3/11)--The Obama administration has targeted banks for alleged redlining and other fair lending violations. Bankers claim the government is abusing its authority and contradicting findings by other federal regulators (American Banker Aug. 2). Among the key issues is last year’s launch of a special fair-lending unit within the Justice Department’s civil rights division. The unit is charged with enforcing laws such as the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act and investigating claims of discrimination in lending practices. The department has said such referrals increased drastically in the wake of the financial crisis. In 2010, the civil-rights division received 49 referrals, which was more than in the prior 20 years combined. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who leads the civil rights division, has indicated the department’s fair-lending authority had been previously underused … * WASHINGTON (8/3/11)--A federal court has stopped an online operation that allegedly made withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts without their consent when consumers visited the defendants’ web sites to inquire about payday loans (American Banker Aug. 1). The court also froze the assets of the defendants. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeks to permanently cease the illegal practices and require the defendants to refund the consumers’ money. The defendants’ web sites, which include mypaydayangel.com and juniperloans.com, request consumers’ personal and financial information, such as Social Security, driver license and bank account numbers, according to the FTC’s complaint. Consumers are offered programs unrelated to the loan for food, travel and merchandise discounts, or for long distance calling and Internet access. Many consumers who submitted a payday loan application were enrolled into the programs without their knowledge, and their bank accounts were charged up to $59.90 per month, or later charged $99.90 per year. Some people who declined the offers were charged for the programs anyway, the FTC alleged …


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