WASHINGTON - Rep. Charles Schumer became the second lawmaker in a week to question the Comptroller of the Currency's plan to let national bank subsidiaries offer products that are off limits to their parents.
The New York Democrat contrasted Comptroller Eugene A. Ludwig's recent warnings about slipping credit standards with his plans to open the door for national banks to deliver a wider array of products and services.
"Is it appropriate that we consider expanding bank powers to enter new activities at a time when there already exist serious safety-and-soundness problems with banks' traditional lending activities," Rep. Schumer's April 10 letter asks.
"The credit problems you have now brought to our attention only heighten my concern and, in my view, illustrate more starkly the risks of further bank liberalization."
In a speech over the weekend, Mr. Ludwig announced he is fighting the trend toward looser credit standards by forming a National Credit Committee to check up on examiners at the largest national banks.
House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach hammered Mr. Ludwig on the same issue in a letter dated April 5. A spokeswoman said the comptroller would not comment until responses have been delivered to the lawmakers.
Mr. Ludwig did defend the plan in January after Rep. John Dingell, D- Mich., attacked it.
The proposal, issued in November, is generally supported by the industry because it could make it easier to underwrite securities through a bank unit rather than a holding company subsidiary.
The agency is still working on a final version of the regulation, which could be watered down because of congressional criticism.