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Senate conferees accept House option on interchange
WASHINGTON (6/23/10)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) on Tuesday repeated its call for credit unions to oppose Congress’s final financial regulatory reform bill, as the House Senate lawmakers voted to accept a House proposal that retained portions of that bill that would modify current interchange practices. Following the late afternoon decision by the Senators, CUNA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs said that CUNA "opposes the big bill with interchange in it, not the concept of financial regulatory reform." The agreed-to version of interchange legislation would allow the federal government to impose controls on the fees paid to use electronic payment networks. While the proposal does currently exempt financial institutions with under $10 billion in assets from the terms of the legislation, CUNA and others have said that that carve out is unlikely to matter, as smaller issuers will likely be pushed aside by favorable deals between merchants and big issuers. CUNA has repeatedly stated that, among other things, altering the current interchange rules would result in an artificially low debit interchange rate that would force small issuers to recoup losses through other means. The interchange provisions as written would hurt consumers by driving up debit card fees, with no compensatory advantages to consumers, CUNA has said. CUNA and various state credit union leagues continued to make their case to legislators during Hill visits on Tuesday, and hundreds of credit union representatives, alsong with over 650,000 credit union backers, have contacted their legislators to voice their opposition to the interchange fee changes in recent weeks. Legislators are aiming to wrap up the financial regulatory reform conference committee by the end of this week. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Tuesday disclosed that the committee will discuss prudential regulation on Wednesday, with limited debate on derivatives set to take place on Thursday. Legislative offers, counter-offers, as well as votes, will take place on those days as well. The committee this week agreed to legislation addressing thrifts, deposit insurance reforms, hedge funds, credit rating agencies, executive compensation, and investor protections, among other items.

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