Rep. John J. LaFalce is getting ready to put his legislation where his mouth is after delivering a tongue-lashing last week to unscrupulous lenders.
"Consumers with flawed credit histories are in some cases preyed upon by financial institutions that offer more than they deliver," the House Banking Committee's ranking Democrat said during a hearing Feb. 8 on the causes of recent bank failures.
The New York lawmaker plans to introduce a bill next week that would crack down on payday lenders, staff members said. He will also present legislation next month to curtail predatory lending.
Rep. LaFalce also produced a letter from an unidentified Washington resident that accused several credit card lenders of deceptive marketing practices aimed at subprime borrowers. Committee staff members said the credit card marketers could be the target of a separate legislative proposal.
Also, Rep. LaFalce called for an economic analysis of subprime lending by the Congressional Budget Office and other studies to better define the scope of subprime lending and how it threatens the banking system.
Though some financial institutions have "missed the boat" in terms of how adequately they are protecting confidential customer information, state legislatures should resist the urge to enact tougher privacy laws, Kentucky Insurance Commissioner George Nichols 3d warned last week."We are trying to tell the states to be more cautious and move slowly," said Mr. Nichols, who is also president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. At an insurance industry summit here last week, he said, "I don't think it is in anyone's interest that we try to create privacy rules for insurance that are different from [those of] other financial institutions."
He said he and other insurance commissioners are advising state lawmakers to wait until federal privacy protections included in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act take effect this year. State insurance regulators should coordinate with their federal counterparts, he said, to avoid a "patchwork" of 50 state standards that could hurt the industry.
Another reason to wait is that Congress may not be finished legislating, he added. A recent settlement by Chase Manhattan Corp. with the New York State attorney general - which went beyond Gramm-Leach-Bliley by barring Chase from sharing information with unaffiliated marketers - could be a "vanguard" of legislation to come, he said.
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta has hired Brian K. Smith to be its top lobbyist.The bank's board is expected this week to formally approve Mr. Smith - who has been the banking aide to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for the past three years - as vice president of government relations, starting Feb. 28. He helped develop Sen. Hagel's Home Loan bank reform plan, part of which was included in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
The bank has not had a full-time lobbyist before, and Mr. Smith said a top priority would be getting executives from member banks and thrifts more involved in its government relations strategy.