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MBL amendment deadline is Sept. 13

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WASHINGTON (8/10/10)--Though another segment the 2010 congressional session effectively ended on Friday, the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) push for increased member business lending (MBL) authority will continue, as amendments to a pending small business jobs bill may be offered when the U.S. Senate reconvenes on Sept. 13. Members of the U.S. House will return briefly to vote on funding items and other unfinished business this week, but after that, the legislators will return to their districts until early September. As the legislators campaign in their respective districts, CUNA, the leagues, and credit unions will meet with lawmakers on their home turf to discuss the benefits to the economy and to small businesses of lifting the credit union MBL cap. CUNA Director of Grassroots Advocacy Elizabeth Kangas said that credit unions will use the long recess to push the Senate on MBLs and can "lay the ground work" for MBLs to be considered in September "by being present at every opportunity and continuing to engage small businesses." CUNA has been working to get an MBL amendment, which would lift the current 12.25% cap to 27.5% of a credit union's assets, added to the small business jobs bill, but the Senate recessed before taking final votes on the bill. National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Debbie Matz last week again publicly backed the MBL increase. In remarks published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Aug. 8, Matz said that there is "a tremendous need" for such loans within the small business community, adding that the potential risks posed by increased commercial lending are "not an issue" if those loans are well executed. Matz earlier this year said that lifting the MBL cap could help credit unions spur future job creation and added that the NCUA would "promptly revise" its regulation "to ensure that additional capacity in the credit union system would not result in unintended safety and soundness concerns" if the MBL cap was lifted.

Inside Washington (08/09/2010)

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* WASHINGTON (8/10/10)—The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) later today is expected to discuss potential changes to its use of external ratings agencies to set capital requirements. As reported in , the discussion is part of a process required by the recently enacted Financial Regulatory Reform laws. The new regulations give federal authorities one year "to remove any reference to or requirement of reliance on credit ratings." Former Federal Reserve official Richard Spillenkothen told the Banker that "the idea of trying to find an approach to capital that is simpler than the internal ratings-based approach, but that doesn't over-rely on credit ratings, is a reasonable thing to explore." Spillenkothen suggested that regulators could mandate additional risk categories… * WASHINGTON (8/10/10)—The Senate last week rejected Federal Reserve Governor nominee Peter Diamond after Senate Republicans questioned his macroeconomic experience. As reported in American Banker, the Senate will likely approve Janet Yellen to become Fed Vice Chairman and Sarah Bloom Raskin to also join the Fed. The nominations will likely be taken up in September… * WASHINGTON (8/10/10)--The third of four joint public hearings on modernizing rules that implement the Community Reinvestment Act, to be held Thursday in Chicago, will be available for online viewing at . The session is sponsored by the sponsored by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision. It is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. (CT) and to end at 4:30 p.m. (CT). The agenda includes welcoming remarks, three topical panels, and a host of individual presentations. After the hearing, the agencies will post a hearing transcript and audio recording at . The final hearing is scheduled for Aug. 17 in Los Angeles…

FinCEN seeks comment on monthly SAR report value

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WASHINGTON (8/10/10)—Credit unions and other financial institutions will soon be encouraged to give their insight on the usefulness of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's (FinCEN’s) updates on its Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), the U.S. Treasury announced this week. Specifically, FinCEN said it is seeking input on its SAR Activity Review - Trends, Tips & Issues release and its SAR Activity Review - By the Numbers release. An opinion survey, which will be provided online, will be completely voluntary. FinCEN in a release said that it hopes to learn more about the needs of financial institutions and to "identify opportunities to improve" the reports. The survey results will be reported to FinCEN "only in the aggregate," according to the release. "Individual responses will be grouped anonymously along with those of other FinCEN customers," the release added. The activity reviews are released on a monthly basis and cover both the latest results of SARs and how financial institutions can best deal with fraudulent activity. FinCEN earlier this year reported that the total amount of SARs filed decreased slightly to 1.28 million in 2009, down from the 1.29 million SARs recorded in 2008.