Rep. John A. Boehner, perhaps overcome by a bit of holiday optimism, said financial modernization legislation will enjoy "broad and enthusiastic" support this year.

In a signed article in Roll Call last month, the chairman of Congress' Financial Services Modernization Working Group predicted that House leaders will bring the bill to the floor "as early as practicable in 1998."

"My colleagues in the House Republican leadership and I firmly believe that financial modernization is central to our overall effort to making the U.S. economy the most productive and dynamic in the world," the Ohio Republican said.

Rep. John J. LaFalce, also in an article penned for the Capitol Hill newspaper, expressed optimism for floor action in 1998 as well. But the House Banking Democrat criticized a provision in the pending legislation that would eliminate the thrift charter.

"I have yet to hear a good policy argument in favor of the elimination of the thrift charter," Rep. LaFalce said. "It is not Congress' job to reduce healthy competition in the marketplace."

Massachusetts Bank Commissioner Thomas J. Curry put Bay State bankers on notice last month that he will crack down on subprime lenders who don't clean up their acts soon.

A recent jump in the number of consumer complaints and exam violations involving subprime lenders in Massachusetts raised the state regulator's concern. In particular, he warned lenders not to cross the line between subprime and predatory loans.

"Predatory lending is an illegal credit practice," Mr. Curry wrote in a letter to bankers and mortgage brokers. "The division will take aggressive action against any institution which engages in predatory lending."

The Massachusetts bank commissioner said examiners will be on the lookout for borrowers with unusually high debt-to-income ratios; repeated refinancing of loans, or "flipping;" and discriminatory pricing. He advised senior management to establish proper controls, identify default and other risks, and refer prospective subprime borrowers to credit counseling.

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