The bankruptcy reform bill adopted on a 306-to-118 vote of the House on Wednesday would cost the government about $214 million over the next five years, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill would use a formula based on income and living expenses to determine if consumers may eliminate unsecured debts in Chapter 7 or must repay some debt in Chapter 13.

The legislation's costs are driven mainly by the need to hire more U.S. trustees to handle an increased work load, the agency said. The bill would require trustees to offer debtor education programs, audit bankruptcy filings, and maintain copies of tax returns submitted by bankruptcy filers.

The bill also would require the government to hire new judges and other court personnel and would cut government revenues by reducing some bankruptcy filing fees, the budget office said.

The CBO also estimates that the reform bill would cost the private sector more than $100 million a year. Costs could range from $300 to $1,000 per Chapter 13 filer.

For a copy of the CBO's "HR 3150: Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1998," call 202-226-2600.

Upper-income households are carrying significantly more debt on their credit cards, according to a study by Peter S. Yoo of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Mr. Yoo studied the massive rise in credit card debt from 1992 to 1995. He finds the increase is attributable to an overall rise in the amount of debt per household rather than from an increase in the total number of households with credit cards. Also, he says, upper-income consumers have incurred most of the increased debt, though he notes that lower-income consumers are increasing their debt burdens at a more rapid pace then higher-income consumers.

For a copy of "Still Charging: The Growth of Credit Card Debt Between 1992 and 1995," call 314-444-8808.

The thrift charter has evolved from a vehicle for promoting homeownership to a dynamic structure allowing the mixing of banking, securities, and insurance, according to Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco economist Simon Kwan.

In a broad comparison of the bank and thrift charters, Mr. Kwan finds that the thrift charter is more versatile and imposes fewer restrictions on nonbanking activities.

"While thrifts are allowed to engage in virtually the same activities as banks, they can more freely affiliate with securities firms and insurance companies than banks," he writes. "Thus the thrift charter allows financial conglomerates to complete their financial services product line."

For a copy of "Bank Charters vs. Thrift Charters," call 415-974-3341 or visit www.sf.frb.org.

The Bankers Roundtable has released a compendium of papers and speeches that were delivered at a recent conference on the future of the national bank charter.

Highlights include comments from banking lawyer Michael Helfer questioning the Federal Reserve Board's authority to place restrictions on transactions between banks and their subsidiaries and from Bevis Longstreth, a professor at Columbia University School of Law, demanding that the Fed and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency end their turf war over who will regulate banks of the future.

For a copy of "The Future of National Banking: Facing New Threats and Seizing New Opportunities," call 202-463-4224.

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