Just Ignore It

Lawmakers sent a novel message last week to nervous banking industry representatives raising concerns about a provision in an appropriations bill that would give state attorneys general the right to examine national banks: Just ignore it, we'll fix it later.Banking lawyers have said the provision is vaguely worded and would let the Federal Trade Commission write mortgage lending rules that would apply to banks and could be enforced by state attorneys general.

Though the measure's sponsor, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., insists it is aimed only at nonbanks, the industry worked overtime trying to scuttle the provision. Fearful of holding up the budget, however, lawmakers put off making any changes in the provision. Instead, they offered a promise that the measure does not apply to banks.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, withdrew an amendment to remove the language after Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and Dorgan promised him the measure did not say what he and others think it says. And just to make sure, they promised they will fix it later.

"It is my understanding we have an agreement … that will establish that we do not want to change the regulatory authority and the jurisdictional structures we now have for our federal regulators over our depository institutions," said Crapo, "and that we will, in a very expedited manner in the next available option for a legislative vehicle, make statutory changes to correct that."

Dodd said he would get right on it.

"Our intent is, at the earliest possible time, we will have legislation to correct what is in this bill and change that," he said.

The New Citigroup

What would a nationalized Citigroup Inc. look like? The spoof Web site funnyordie.com tells you in a sketch called "The New … Citibank."Why the ellipsis? Let's just say that much of what the site offers is not printable in this or any other newspaper.

And the site makes sure a nationalized Citi sounds like a bad idea.

"Now going to the bank is just like going to the … DMV," says one "customer."

Adds another: "I had to wait in a line to get into another line to get into a third line to be told that someone gave me the wrong … form."

The spoof even addresses the influence of policymakers on the bank.

"We're FDIC-insured, and our policies are subject to the whims of pundits and lawmakers," the bank says on the site.

And just as loan underwriting has tightened, it will be even worse at a nationalized Citi. "The loan officer said we had to take a drug test to be considered for a home improvement loan," says a customer. His wife adds, "And sign something called a pledge of righteousness."

And the bank is portrayed as changing its slogan from "The Citi never sleeps" to "Take your number, wait your … turn. We're nationalized Citibank."

3 to Senate Banking

The Senate Banking Committee has hired three staff members.Charles Yi was hired as a senior policy adviser and counsel to cover insurance and commercial banking law, regulatory modernization, Troubled Asset Relief Program oversight, and other legislative issues. Yi was a counsel to the House Financial Services Committee. Before that he was a lawyer at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, and Dorr in Washington and at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York.

Beth Cooper, formerly a congressional liaison for the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, is now a committee professional working on affordable housing and community development. She previously was on the House Budget Committee staff and an analyst in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's offices of budget and public and Indian housing.

Mitch Warren is to handle transportation issues for the committee as a senior policy adviser. He previously handled Senate Environment and Public Works Committee work for Majority Leader Harry Reid and transportation and other issues for the Senate Budget Committee.

Vitter Adds Aide

Travis Johnson has joined the staff of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., as a legislative assistant working on Senate Banking Committee issues.Johnson spent the past nine months as a legislative director for Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz.

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