WASHINGTON - In halting regulations and proposals issued in the waning days of his predecessor's administration, President Bush has put on hold several items of major importance to the financial services industry, including limits on merchant banking investments.
But agency officials said that none of the regulations affecting banks and thrifts - whether the industry likes them or not - are expected to be derailed.
"What we have been told by the Treasury Department is that it is business as usual," said Deborah Dakin, deputy chief counsel for regulations and legislation at the Office of Thrift Supervision.
President Bush signed an order shortly after he was sworn in Saturday that delayed for 60 days any regulations approved by executive branch departments and agencies that had not yet taken effect. The order also froze regulations sent to the Federal Register that had not yet been published.
Both steps were taken to give the new administration time to review the scores of last-minute rules issued by Clinton officials.
The order applies to actions by the Treasury Department, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Independent agencies such as the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are not subject to the rule but are being asked to comply.
A Fed spokesman said that among the detained regulations were a joint Treasury and Fed rule that sets limits on merchant banking activities; a proposal by the Fed, the OCC, and the FDIC that would set capital requirements on merchant banking; and another joint Treasury and Fed rule that requires large banks to issue debt or meet other criteria to own financial subsidiaries.
Officials at the OCC and OTS said that they were told on Monday by Treasury officials that the agencies could proceed with the implementing of regulations done jointly with the Fed or the FDIC.
These include the Community Reinvestment Act "sunshine" disclosures required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; a rule establishing guidelines for computer standards to safeguard customer information at financial institutions; and a rule requiring financial institutions to warn consumers that insurance products sold by banks are not federally guaranteed.
In addition, the consumer privacy rules mandated by Gramm-Leach-Bliley are exempt because they technically took effect in November.
Independent agencies were left to decide if they would comply voluntarily. They include the Federal Housing Finance Board, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and the Farm Credit Administration.
A spokeswoman for the oversight office said that during the 60-day period the agency will not issue a final rule on a proposal that would set assessment on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to pay for supervisory costs. Comments on the proposal are due Friday.