Fed Officer Urges Regulatory Cooperation

WASHINGTON - As global banking and financial services markets become increasingly intertwined, regulators in different countries must better cooperate to maintain international financial stability, Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Roger W. Ferguson Jr. said Monday."A rigorous, coordinated supervisory approach will be necessary to counterbalance the pressures of an increasingly dynamic and competitive marketplace," he said in a speech at the annual meeting of the Institute of International Bankers.

Mr. Ferguson said that in international finance market discipline is and will continue to be a "critical complement to [the] supervisory oversight process." Noting that adequate disclosure of financial information is vital to effective market discipline, he applauded the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for proposing to strengthen banks' disclosure requirements and for "promoting more consistent disclosure among nations."

- Rob Garver

Trade Group: Privacy-Rule Plan Too Vague

WASHINGTON - Regulators need to clarify proposed privacy rules and specify which businesses they will apply to, the Electronic Financial Services Council said Monday.In a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, the trade group said the definitions of "financial institution" and "financial product or service" are so broad that businesses such as Microsoft Corp. or Intuit are unsure whether they would be covered by the proposed rules or how they would have to alter current privacy practices.

Many Internet portals, web site hosts, and software vendors that facilitate financial services delivery may not know the proposed regulations could apply to them, the letter added.

"The Federal Reserve must provide a clearer definition of the entities subject to the proposed regulations before permitting the comment period on those proposed regulations to close," wrote Jeremiah S. Buckley, the council's lawyer. "Many businesses that would want to comment on privacy issues affecting them do not realize that these proposed regulations are in fact intended to apply to them."

- Michele Heller

Deloitte Says FHA Finances at Strongest

WASHINGTON - The Deloitte & Touche accounting firm issued a report Monday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development's FHA program is in its strongest financial condition since its 1934 inception.HUD Deputy Secretary Saul Ramirez cited the report as evidence that Congress should not merge FHA and the private company Ginnie Mae, which guarantees FHA-backed mortgage loans in secondary markets. "FHA has succeeded in unlocking the door to homeownership for 30 million American families," Mr. Ramirez said. "We need to be opening that door even wider today, not slamming it shut on the dreams of hard-working families in order to maximize profits for a new corporation."

Of those getting FHA-insured mortgages, the percentage of first-time homebuyers rose to 81% in 1999, from 64% in 1992, Mr. Ramirez said.

- Kevin Guerrero

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