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Inside Washington (10/28/2011)
  • WASHINGTON (10/31/11)--Eighteen members of the House and Senate sent letters Thursday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and to federal regulators on the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) expressing concern that Bank of America has moved trillions of dollars in derivatives from its subsidiary Merrill Lynch into a subsidiary insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC). The lawmakers are concerned with a reported increase in so-called 23A exemptions, referring to the section of the Federal Reserve Act that separates insured banking from investment activities. In the letter, lawmakers questioned the transfer of an undisclosed amount of derivatives from Merrill Lynch, a securities trading subsidiary, to Bank of America, a retail bank subsidiary. The transfer reportedly happened following threats of further credit downgrades that would have forced Merrill Lynch to post an additional $3.3 billion in collateral. "Regulators must stop treating transactions like this as a private matter," said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said. "This kind of transaction raises many issues of obvious public concern. If the bank subsidiary failed, innocent taxpayers could end up paying off 'exotic' derivatives." The questions Miller and Brown and other members seek answers to include whether investigators determined if the transfer occurred to avoid the requirement to post additional collateral in light of the credit downgrade for the company. The lawmakers also want to know if the risk of the derivatives was determined and whether the newly-insured derivatives pose a risk to the financial system …
  • WASHINGTON (10/31/11)--U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a letter Thursday urging U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee, to force regulators to provide "engagement letters" between mortgage servicing companies and independent firms hired to review past foreclosure abuse (American Banker Oct. 28) The engagement letters from the 14 largest mortgage-servicing companies governed the contracts they had with consultants hired to review foreclosure actions. Federal regulators began investigating mortgage servicers last year after widespread problems were found with foreclosure practices. Cummings requested copies of the letters from regulators in May but did not receive a response. Cummings, the leading Democrat on the committee, said he was concerned the consultants performing foreclosure reviews had set their own terms, could have resulted in conflicts of interest …


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