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Inside Washington (11/10/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (11/11/08)--The House Financial Services Committee announced its witness list for its upcoming hearing, "Private Sector Cooperation with Mortgage Modifications-Ensuring That Investors, Servicers and Lenders Provide Real Help for Troubled Homeowners." On Wednesday, the following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Benjamin Allensworth, senior legal counsel, Managed Funds Association; Thomas Deutsch, deputy executive director, American Securitization Forum; Michael Gross, managing director, Loan Administration Loss Mitigation, Bank of America; and Molly Sheehan, senior vice president, Home Lending Division, JPMorgan Chase ... * WASHINGTON (11/11/08)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced Friday that the conforming loan limit will remain $417,000 for 2009. The loan limit is the maximum size of loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase in 2009. The limit was left unchanged based on declines in FHFA’s monthly and quarterly house price indexes over the past year...

Frank criticizes agencies UIGEA haste

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WASHINGTON (11/11/08)-- House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said the Bush administration is proceeding with “unseemly haste” in its efforts to implement the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, Frank reiterated his call to delay implementation of what he called “deeply flawed” UIGEA rules. In September, Frank’s committee approved the Payment System Protection Act (H.R. 6870), a bill that would place a moratorium on the implementation of UIGEA, as proposed by Treasury and the Fed. Those agencies are statutorily assigned that responsibility. In separate letters to each agency head, Frank wrote, “This midnight rulemaking will tie the hands of the new administration, burden the financial services industry at a time of economic crisis, and contradict the stated intent of the Financial Services Committee.” Frank wrote that the proposed regulations, “like the underlying UIGEA statute,” are deeply flawed. Under the Internet gambling law, financial institutions must establish and implement policies and procedures to identify and block restricted transactions, or rely on those established by the payments system. Frank and other critics complain that the proposal fails to define the term “unlawful internet gambling,” leaving each financial institution to reconcile conflicting state and federal laws, court decisions and inconsistent Department of Justice interpretations when determining whether to process a transaction. “I strongly urge you to delay implementation of these major, and deeply flawed regulations to permit the incoming (Obama) administration the ability to review the consequences of such a significant policy decision, rather than unfairly being denied that opportunity. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has voiced concerns that the provisions of the law could swamp credit unions and other financial institutions with compliance burdens. CUNA also opposes the agencies’ draft implementation of the law, saying it lacks clarity and sufficient definition of terms.

CUNA urges austerity in 2009 NCUA budget

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WASHINGTON (11/11/08)—In troubled times, such as the nation and its credit unions currently face, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) should approach its budget with a sense of austerity, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). CUNA sent letters to each NCUA board member Friday commenting on the NCUA’s proposed 2009 budget. The NCUA has projected a 15% increase next year to $182.9 million. In its letter, signed by President/CEO Dan Mica, CUNA reminded the federal regulators that CUNA has a long-standing policy of supporting sufficient resources for NCUA. Mica wrote it is CUNA’s view that the entire credit union system benefits when the agency is able to perform its job well, thereby facilitating the safety and soundness of federally insured credit unions. However, Mica pledged that CUNA always will urge the agency to achieve efficiencies and minimize costs. The CUNA letter added that the group has several major concerns regarding the proposed 2009 budget the NCUA Board is scheduled to consider at its Nov. 20 open meeting. The proposed 15% increase, in part, encompasses 84 new full-time equivalent employees. “CUNA does not oppose all of the increases, but we seriously question the manner in which NCUA is proposing to expand its available resources,” the Mica letter noted. For instance, CUNA has “serious concerns” regarding the agency’s plan to add such a significant number of new employees. Other options should first be considered, CUNA said, including whether the agency can rely more heavily on part-time and contract workers, or shift examiners from one region to another that is more hard hit by the country’s economic problems. Mica also questioned the agency’s projected benchmark raise of over 6% for pay and relocation costs for agency staff. He asked the regulators to bear in mind that those increases would be funded by federal credit unions, a number of which will not be able to afford such increases for their own employees. CUNA also asked the NCUA board to reconsider its intention to budget $300,000 over two years for the 75th Anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act. “We doubt NCUA would condone a credit union spending such a relatively sizeable amount on a celebration when safety and soundness concerns required funds to be allocated elsewhere,” Mica wrote explaining the concern. Use the resource link below to read the comprehensive comment letter sent by CUNA.