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Provisions of the financial regulation bill

Here are some highlights of the compromise legislation to overhaul financial rules:

OVERSIGHT: A 10-member council of regulators led by the Treasury secretary would monitor threats to the financial system and decide which companies were so big or interconnected that their failures could upend the financial system. Those companies would be subject to tougher regulation. If such a company teetered, the government could liquidate it. The costs of taking such a company down would be borne by its industry peers.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: A new independent office would oversee financial products and services such as mortgages, credit cards and short-term loans. The office would be housed in the Fed. Auto dealers, pawn brokers and others would be exempt from the bureau's enforcement. For community banks, the new rules would be enforced by existing regulators.

FEDERAL RESERVE: The Federal Reserve would lead the oversight of big, interconnected companies whose failures could threaten the system. The Fed's relationships with banks would face more scrutiny from the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm. The GAO could audit emergency lending the Fed made after the 2008 financial crisis emerged. The Fed also would have to set lower limits on the fees that banks charge merchants that accept debit cards.

CAPITAL CUSHIONS: Big banks would have to reserve as much money as small banks do to protect against future losses. But big banks would have to replace hybrid forms of capital called trust preferred securities with common stock or other securities.

DERIVATIVES: The trading of derivatives, financial instruments whose values change based on the price of some underlying investment and fueled the financial crisis, would be forced onto more transparent exchanges.

Banks will continue trading derivatives related to interest rates, foreign exchanges, gold and silver, but riskier derivatives could not be traded by banks. Those deals would run through affiliated companies with segregated finances.

BANK RESTRICTIONS: Companies that own commercial banks could no longer make speculative bets for their own profits. Also, banks will be allowed to invest up to 3 percent of their capital in private equity and hedge funds.

EXECUTIVE PAY: The Fed would oversee executive compensation to make sure it does not encourage excessive risk-taking. The Fed would issue broad guidelines but no specific rules. If a payout appeared to promote risky business practices, the Fed could intervene to block it.

CREDIT RATING AGENCIES: Credit rating agencies that give recklessly bad advice could be legally liable for investor losses. Regulators would study the conflict of interest at the heart of the rating system: Credit raters are paid by the banks that issue the securities they rate. Before the crisis, they bowed to pressure from the banks, lawmakers say.

MORTGAGE LOANS: Lenders would have to make sure mortgage borrowers could afford to repay and would have to disclose the highest payment borrowers could face on their adjustable-rate mortgages. Mortgage brokers could no longer receive bonuses for pushing people into high-cost loans.

Provisions of the financial regulation bill 07/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:55pm]

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