The House and Senate banking committees will delve into a variety of issues ranging from electronic commerce to financial modernization after Congress returns from its August recess next week.

Nine hearings already are slated for September, including an appearance by Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin to lay out the Clinton administration's strategy for making all federal payments electronically by 1999.

The financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., will hold the first in a series of hearings on debit cards and Internet commerce Sept. 18. "The focus will be on who has access to customer information and what disclosures are allowed," said an aide to Rep. Roukema.

Future hearings will address whether Congress should limit consumer liabilities for debit cards and whether the Fair Credit Reporting Act is sufficient to protect consumers engaging in electronic transactions.

Rep. Roukema also plans to ask bank regulators at a Sept. 24 hearing to detail their preparations for the eventual dismantling of the barriers separating banking and commerce.

Rep. Mike Castle, who chairs the domestic and international monetary policy subcommittee, has invited Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to testify at a Sept. 16 hearing examining whether the Fed's check-processing system competes unfairly with the private sector.

Also on Rep. Castle's agenda is a hearing in late September or early October to determine whether Congress should enact uniform standards for digital signatures used to authorize electronic financial transactions.

Rep. Richard Baker, chairman of the capital markets, securities, and government-sponsored enterprises subcommittee, plans a mid-September hearing on the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's effort to create new risk-based capital standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The hearing will take place soon after the General Accounting Office completes a report on OFHEO, expected in early September.

The full committee also will vote on a bill Committee Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, introduced to dissolve the Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board, the federal agency set up in 1989 to oversee the now- defunct Resolution Trust Corp.

The Senate Banking Committee is still in the early stages of preparing its fall schedule, but Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., is expected to continue hearings on the impact of ATM surcharges. Also, he is considering a hearing on limiting customer liability for stolen or lost debit cards.

The financial institutions subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing in October on a regulatory relief bill being drafted by Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Connie Mack, R-Fla.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who chairs the financial services and technology subcommittee, plans to hold a hearing to gather input for a bill limiting access to personal financial information.

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