WASHINGTON - Industry representatives praised House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley's plan to tackle a broad range of issues during this term, but some skeptics predicted that little new legislation will emerge.
At a news conference today, the Ohio Republican is expected to unveil a 16-page agenda running the gamut from deposit insurance reform to increased oversight of government-sponsored enterprises.
Industry officials on Tuesday said the list was ambitious.
"I had very high expectations, and he has met and exceeded those expectations," said Steve Bartlett, president of the Financial Services Roundtable. "Without any criticism of past chairmen the breadth of the agenda is new and refreshing."
Others cautioned that, while the list includes a wide range of topics, hearings are more likely than action on many banking issues, and that Rep. Oxley's focus would be more on securities and insurance legislation.
"In the short run, there is probably going to be little in the legislative field that directly affects banks," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association.
Mr. Yingling said that he expected bankruptcy reform and a bill allowing interest to be paid on business checking to be two of the few items to be passed soon.
But that did not stop other industry officials from generating some positive spin from the mere presence of their key issues on Rep. Oxley's laundry list. Trade groups representing community banks and thrifts said they were encouraged by his plan to conduct what he called a "comprehensive analysis" of deposit insurance reform.
"I find this document very encouraging," said Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Rep. Oxley "is very much on the right track," Mr. Guenther said.
Rep. Oxley's plan includes considering a merger of the bank and thrift funds, various options for raising deposit insurance pricing and coverage, and the appropriateness of the statutory minimum ratios of the funds' reserves to insured deposits.
Mr. Bartlett said the Roundtable will focus more on getting lawmakers' attention on front-burner issues such as privacy of financial records he said.
"Privacy is one of the most important items on this list," Mr. Bartlett said. "Congress will and should come to grips with the need for national uniform standards. State-by-state standards are highly dysfunctional. Privacy will be and should be front and center on the committee's agenda."
Rep. Oxley's plan calls for hearings on privacy issues and says that the committee would consider "whether further reforms may be needed to protect consumer identities and to allocate further responsibility for protecting and fixing consumer credit after an identity theft occurs."
The committee's agenda list even includes reviewing the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994. Among other things, that law prohibited a banking company's deposits from exceeding 10% of all the domestic deposits in banks and thrifts. A few large banks have led the fight to raise the limit.
Bert Ely, an independent analyst in Alexandria, Va., said this effort would be a tough sell on Capitol Hill.
"This one is an uphill fight, and I would not hold up much hope for it," he said "For most banks, they are either neutral on it because they are never going to get anywhere near the 10% limit, or they oppose it."
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