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House banking panel gets three new members

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WASHINGTON (6/12/08)—House Democrats voted to approve three recently elected representatives for seats on the House Financial Services Committee. The committee appointments included a Louisianan, Rep. Don Cazayoux, who was backed during his special election by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Louisiana CU League. CULAC, CUNA's political action committee , contributed $5,000 to Cazayoux's campaign. Cazayoux's narrow victory, winning 49% - 46% over Republican Woody Jenkins, was the subject of broad national attention. The victory placed into the hands of Democrats a Louisiana seat that long had been held by the GOP. Cazayoux now fills the seat left vacant by the resignation of Richard Baker in February. Also elected to the financial services panel by the House Democratic Caucus Tuesday were:
* Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) who won the seat formerly held by Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who died of cancer on Feb. 11; and * Rep. Travis W. Childers (D-Miss.), who won the seat formerly held by Republican Roger Wicker, who was appointed his governor to fill a vacated Senate seat in December.
Earlier this year, U.S. Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) were appointed to the House Financial Services Committee.

Inside Washington (06/11/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (6/12/08)--Citing schedule conflicts, the Senate Banking Committee has delayed a hearing that was to focus on underwriting practices at investment banks (American Banker June 11). Lehman Brothers Holdings, Goldman Sachs Group, UBS AG, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch and Co. were expected to have witnesses at the meeting. The hearing comes after New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner said investment banks should be able to access the Federal Reserve’s discount reserves but only if they were supervised by the central bank ... * WASHINGTON (6/12/08)--Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is being urged by 35 congressional members in a letter to keep tough conforming limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (American Banker June 11). Frank is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. A house bill would let the two buy $729,500 in mortgages. The Senate Banking Committee’s bill would cap the loans at $550,000 ... * WASHINGTON (6/12/08)--The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) has issued a final rule for loss severity calculations under OFHEO’s Risk-Based Capital Regulation. The rule corrects deficiencies in the formula used to calculate risk-based capital. The action results in two changes. The first stems from certain loss severity equations that cause Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to record profits instead of losses on foreclosed mortgages during the calculation of the risk-based capital requirement. The second addresses prior treatment of Federal Housing Administration insurance associated with single-family mortgages with a loan-to-value below 78%, which is inconsistent with current law ...

Treasury introduces prepaid federal benefits card

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WASHINGTON (6/12/08)—Some recipients of federal benefits now have a choice between receiving a standard paper check or a new prepaid debit card, an innovation that might prove particularly valuable to those with no banking relationship. The U.S. Treasury Department announced this week it is introducing the prepaid card option in 10 states now and that the option will become available nationally this summer through Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS). The “Direct Express” card is intended to provide unbanked federal beneficiaries a no-cost or low-cost alternative to using check cashing facilities and carrying large amounts of cash. Unlike other prepaid debit cards, the Direct Express card offers cardholders free access to their money. There is no sign-up fee, and no bank account or credit check is required to enroll, according to Treasury. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of ATMs and retail locations. In a “frequently asked question” section of the Direct Express website, Treasury notes that, with the card, a recipient’s money is federally insured up to the maximum legal limit. It adds that consumer protections of Regulatoion E (12 CFR 205) and MasterCard Zero Liability—with some exceptions—apply to unauthorized use of the card. Lost or stolen cards will be replaced.