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Inside Washington (11/27/2007)
* WASHINGTON (11/28/07)--Bank regulators need to watch activities taking place outside of the balance sheet, said John Bovenzi, chief operating officer of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. during the China International Banking Convention in Beijing two weeks ago (American Banker Nov. 27). Given the problems in the subprime market, regulators need to improve consumer protection, he said, noting that Basel II may not be enough to protect financial institutions from risk when leaving their structured investment vehicles behind … * WASHINGTON (11/28/07)--The Federal Reserve released data Friday indicating that discount window lending to troubled financial institutions was $2 million as of Nov. 21. Lending to healthy institutions was steady at $11 million. About $45 million was provided as seasonal credit to support rural financial institutions (American Banker Nov. 27). Of that amount, $15 million was from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. About $11 million was distributed by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, and $12 million by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank … * WASHINGTON (11/28/07)--The maximum 2008 conforming loan limit for single-family mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will remain at the 2007 level of $417,000 for one-unit properties in most of the U.S., announced Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) Director James Lockhart. Higher limits will apply to Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and properties with more than one unit. The loan limit is based on the October-to-October change in the average house price in the Monthly Rate Survey of the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB). The FHFB reported the decline in the average price was $10,685, or 3.49%, to $295,573 in October 2007 from $306,258 in October 2006. The combined two-year decline is now 3.65% … * WASHINGTON (11/28/07)--Arguments made in a Monday hearing ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 2006 ruling stating that employees cannot sue their employers for mishandling 401(k) or retirement accounts. Last year’s ruling was built off of the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa), in which the appeals court viewed the law as one allowing lawsuits for improper management of plans, but not for individual accounts (The New York Times Nov. 27). In the case, James LaRue had sued the consulting firm handling his retirement account when he realized that the plan’s administrator didn’t transfer his investments as he had requested, resulting in a $150,000 loss. On Monday, LaRue’s lawyer argued that the appeals court misinterpreted Erisa and created a distinction between the plan and individual accounts. Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted that it would be difficult the draw the distinctions, arguing that it wouldn’t matter where the losses came from … * WASHINGTON (11.28/07)—The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced two personnel changes Tuesday: Molly Wilkinson will become SBA’s chief of staff in January, replacing Joel Szabat; and Eric Zarnikow, beginning next week, will be the SBA’s associate administrator for the Office of Capital Access. Zarnikow replaces Michael Hager. Wilkinson, who currently is the General Services Administration’s chief acquisition officer, will be responsible for implementing SBA Administrator Steve Preston’s agenda to improve SBA’s efficiency, transparency and accountability, according to the agency. Zarnikow will be responsible for the management and oversight of SBA’s principal lending, international trade, surety bond and venture capital programs, including the new Patriot Express loan, and initiatives designed to reach underserved markets. Since 1994, he has held a number of executive positions at The ServiceMaster Company, including most recently, senior vice president, chief risk officer and treasurer...


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