House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach will hold a hearing this morning on legislation that would make it a federal crime to fraudulently obtain customer financial information.
Introduced last week, the bill seeks to crack down on the shady practices of some so-called "information brokers." The plan would make it a crime to deceive-or attempt to deceive-a bank into divulging a customer's personal account balances, stock holdings, or other private data. People who knowingly receive such information also would be guilty of a crime.
Anyone convicted under the law would be subject to a maximum $250,000 in fines and a five-year jail term. Corporations would face fines as high as $500,000. Penalties would be doubled for repeat offenders and extreme cases.
The legislation would not establish any new requirements or penalties for financial institutions. Besides Rep. Leach, the six co-sponsors include Rep. John J. LaFalce, the committee's ranking Democrat.
Eleven witnesses are scheduled, including: Julie Williams, acting comptroller of the currency; Mozelle W. Thompson, a member of the Federal Trade Commission; and Boris F. Melnikoff, senior vice president of Wachovia Corp.