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Inside Washington (09/15/2008)
* WASHINGTON (9/16/08)—Consumer advocacy group Consumers Union (CU) filed a petition last week seeking Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action to protect consumers from losing money on gift cards when a retailer files for bankruptcy. In a letter to the agency, CU urged the FTC to require retailers to segregate funds generated from gift card sales in a trust account and to honor a consumer’s gift card as long as the doors remain open unless a bankruptcy court orders otherwise. The CU letter called on the FTC to declare the sale of gift cards without segregating funds and holding the funds in trust to be an unfair and deceptive practice. Consumers Union was joined by the Consumers Federation of America, National Consumer Law Center, and U.S. PIRG in filing the petition. CU is the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports… * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s multi-family and single-family housing contracts will not be affected by the two government-sponsored enterprises’ conservatorships, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said last week (American Banker Sept. 15). The agency will only intervene if the contracts raise safety and soundness questions about Fannie and Freddie. The enterprises were placed into conservatorship by the federal government Sept. 7 ... * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--Actions by national banks and thrifts to prevent home mortgage foreclosures increased faster than their new foreclosures during the second quarter of 2008, according to a joint report issued Friday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. From January to June, new loan modifications increased by more than 80%. New payment plans grew by 8% and two types of loss mitigation actions reached more than 90,000 in June alone. The report is the first issued by the two agencies to combine the mortgage data of national banks and federal thrifts ... * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) will be questioned during a Thursday hearing by the Senate Banking Committee on the IndyMac Bank takeover. The OTS’ largest institution, Washington Mutual, also could be acquired soon (American Banker Sept. 15). Washington Mutual has 20% of its assets under the OTS and if the bank is acquired the OTS could be forced to restructure. At the hearing will be: OTS Director John Reich, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, and Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan ... * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was named as the funniest and brainiest member of the House by Washingtonian Magazine. Frank also was second in the eloquence category and third in the workhouse category (Washingtonian Magazine Aug. 25). Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Joe Biden (D-Del.), the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates, came in second and third in the show horse category. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was second on the best friend to lobbyists category, while placing third in the enemy to lobbyists category ... * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) small/rural lender advantage program has received a “soft response,” according to Charlie Thomas, SBA director of program development (American Banker Sept. 15). SBA officials said the soft response could be due to the fact that the program has been marketed primarily in rural areas. Eligible borrowers are in more developed markets, they said. Officials also cited a slow economy. The program aims to help lenders with fewer than 20 SBA loans from the last three years. Lenders can receive loans of $350,000 or less. Decisions on the applications are made within three to five business days ... * WASHINGTON (9/16/08)--U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is scheduled to deliver remarks today on issues involving the economy and the housing market. He will make his remarks at The Brookings Institution’s conference on The Future of Consumer Payments being held here in Washington…


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