Under White House pressure, Congress was poised to give banks only modest regulatory relief in return for the industry's help in bailing out the Savings Association Insurance Fund.
The Senate was expected to pass the thrift fund rescue and regulatory relief package late Monday and send it to President Clinton, who is expected to sign it.
The House approved the deal Saturday as part of an omnibus spending measure.
The regulatory relief package is a far cry from the sweeping paperwork and compliance revisions bankers had looked for when Republicans won control of Congress in the 1994 elections. By watering down the changes, lawmakers offered the industry only a bare-bones reward for helping to shore up the thrift insurance fund.
"We don't consider it a pro-banking bill," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "I don't think any bankers are calling this a positive for the industry's bottom line."
White House negotiators forced Republicans to scale back revisions planned in several laws, including Truth-in-Savings, Truth-in-Lending, and Home Mortgage Disclosure.
Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke said the changes were essential to gain White House support. "There is a very broad consensus of what should be in. It looks great," he said.
One sticking point over the weekend was overcome when Republicans agreed to drop a new credit reporting rule that would have let credit bureaus sell personal data without a consumer's consent.
The White House also objected to a proposed rule that would have let the Federal Reserve exempt some loans from Truth-in-Lending disclosures. To reach a deal, Republicans agreed to exclude from the exemption high-cost mortgages typically offered by finance companies.
Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee, praised the changes.
"We accomplished our main objectives: We completed the essential business of resolving the SAIF rescue, and we prevented the rollback of many consumer protections," he said.
The thrift fund fix calls for a $4.7 billion assessment on thrift deposits. Also, banks are required to share the cost of paying off Financing Corp. bonds. In 1997, banks will pay $320 of the $780 million annual tab. In 2000, the industry's share jumps to $608 million.
"Resolution of the SAIF issue removes an enormous cloud of uncertainty from our deposit insurance system and banking institutions," said Paul A. Schosberg, president of America's Community Bankers, which represents thrifts. "Enactment truly is a victory for sound public policy making."
Despite bankers' grumbling, an aide to House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach insisted that the regulatory relief package would be a big help to the industry. "This is going to kill a lot of Washington lawyers," the aide said.
For example, most bank holding companies will be able to acquire permissible nonbank operations without regulatory approval. Also, bank holding companies need only Fed approval to acquire thrifts, eliminating a second application to the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Other provisions sought by the industry include:
*Protection from liability for borrowers' environmental clean up costs. Lenders argued that current laws expose them to expensive lawsuits when they foreclose on bankrupt polluters.
*Prohibition on credit unions sponsored by Farm Credit System banks and other government sponsored entities.
*Permission for bank holding companies to share customer credit data between subsidiaries and let lenders "prescreen" credit bureau data bases by demographic standards. State credit reporting laws also are preempted.
Kenneth L. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America, praised Rep. Leach for protecting the regulatory relief and credit union provisions from last-minute attacks. "Because of his efforts, the legislation has come out much more pro-bank than anticipated," he said.
Until the bill passed the House, the Independent Insurance Agents of America had pressed lawmakers to restrict bank insurance powers or kill regulatory relief entirely. At the same time, Wisconsin lawmakers were fighting to save a credit union formed by six Farm Credit System banks in their state.