A deal struck by House Commerce Committee leaders is likely to bring key Democratic support to financial reform legislation.
Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley has asked Republican leaders to accept eight consumer protection measures he is proposing with Rep. John Dingell, the panel's ranking Democrat.
The deal is crucial to bill's prospects because Democrats have insisted that customers will need more protection from misleading sales practices if banks are allowed to expand their offerings of insurance and securities products.
"Combining the package we have negotiated with the bill as presently drafted will enable Democrats and Republicans to join together in bipartisan support," the congressmen wrote in a Wednesday letter Rep. John A. Boehner, the Republican leadership's point man on financial reform.
The Ohio Republican is expected to embrace the deal because Democratic support is needed to pass the controversial legislation. But Capitol Hill sources said Rep. Boehner was reviewing the plan Thursday and had not decided whether to include it in a package of leadership-sponsored amendments when the bill goes to the floor next week.
House Banking Committee Democrats, who have also pushed for stronger consumer protections, were reviewing the plan Thursday afternoon.
However, adding more consumer protections to the legislation is likely to intensify the opposition of banking trade groups. Sarah A. Miller, senior government relations counsel at the American Bankers Association, said the proposal would put new restrictions on services that banks already offer.
For instance, one provision would prohibit banks that are not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as broker-dealers from collecting brokerage commissions in excess of costs incurred. They would be allowed to collect other types of fees, however, such as management or administrative fees.
Ms. Miller said the proposal would force some banks to restructure their trust operations. "Banks have been serving as trustees since the beginning of time, but the amendment would restrict that business," she said.
Still, Banc One Corp. lobbyist Annie Hall, who helped negotiate the deal, said banks can live with the restriction. "This does not cap the fees we can charge overall," she said. "We believe the deal is fair and, more importantly, will enjoy the support of more than 51% of House members."
Robert A. Rusbuldt, lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of America, said bankers have little reason to complain. "We have really tried to mollify the banks," he said.
Other provisions in the deal would:
Require federal regulators to make sure consumers buying financial products get "accurate, simple, and complete disclosure of all commissions, fees, markups, or other costs."
Authorize the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine Woofies- wholesale financial holding companies created by the legislation.
Preserve state insurance laws and rules while protecting banks from "significant interference" by state regulators. The Federal Reserve Board would be required to work with state regulators to oversee companies that own both a bank and an insurance company.
Preempt state consumer protection rules as long as federal regulators jointly decide that federal rules provide consumers with more safeguards.
Clarify what is a "traditional banking product" by giving the SEC jurisdiction over certain derivative instruments.
Require within two years of enactment that the Treasury Secretary work with the SEC and the federal banking agencies to study the effect new law has on services provided to low- and moderate-income people and neighborhoods.
Protect the scope and applicability of the Commodity Exchange Act.