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Inside Washington (07/28/2011)
* WASHINGTON (7/29/11)--A provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that requires elimination of references to credit ratings in most bank regulations has proven difficult to implement, regulators told the House subcommittee on financial oversight on Wednesday. The law requires regulators to substitute references to credit ratings with other standards of creditworthiness. But regulators said finding alternatives has been difficult, and those they have found are not necessarily superior to credit ratings. Among the alternatives the Federal Reserve is considering are market-based indicators such as bond spreads, approaches that rely on balance-sheet financial ratios, and internal risk assessments by banks, according to Mark Van Der Weide, senior associate director of the Federal Reserve Board’s division of banking supervision (American Banker July 28). The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has said it is concerned with the potential unintended effects of the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) proposal to completely prohibit credit unions from relying on credit ratings to assess credit risk. CUNA, in a recent comment letter, argued that the Dodd-Frank Act “does not require that regulators preclude the institutions they oversee from relying on credit ratings.” * WASHINGTON (7/29/11)—Plaintiffs’ attorneys have moved to unseal records in a key class action suit regarding bank overdraft practices. If it is granted, Wednesday’s motion in Larsen v. Union Bank N.A. could prompt greater public scrutiny of banks’ motives for handling transactions in sequences that produce more overdraft charges (American Banker July 28). The plaintiffs intend to make similar requests to unseal court records for other banks, said Bruce Rogow, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Lawrence King, the judge in the case, also supported a methodology for determining damages that was key to a $203 million ruling against Wells Fargo & Co. in a California-specific overdraft suit. The court’s references to the California case may prove damaging for bank defendants in the Union Bank case. Northern California District Court Judge William Alsup ruled against Wells Fargo. That case has been appealed.

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