May 3, 2006

Senate panel to weigh easing financial regulation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel is poised to
advance legislation on Thursday that would ease oversight of
the financial services sector by reducing what are seen as
outdated and redundant regulations.

But the bill excludes many provisions sought by banks and
credit unions and included in legislation approved in the
House, setting the stage for more wrangling when House and
Senate negotiators meet to hammer out their differences.

Republican Sen. Michael Crapo of Idaho, who has led the
Senate's effort to draft regulatory relief for the financial
sector, said a slimmed-down bill was necessary to win passage.

"What it comes down to is whether we want a bill that will
make it through the Senate and not get either filibustered or
amended to death, or whether we want to take a stand on a
larger, broader bill and have a fight over principle but not
necessarily get a bill that moves through the Senate and
becomes law," Crapo said.

"And I think it's simply a recognition of the reality that
in today's political climate ... that we take the steps we can
take now and come back in the future and visit the other issues
another time," he said.

Congress has been considering measures to ease regulatory
requirements facing the financial sector for years. Those
efforts have been pushed by both industry and federal
regulatory agencies.

The bill offered in the Senate is expected to move swiftly
through the Banking Committee. Crapo said the top senators on
the panel -- Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama
Republican, and Democrat Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland --
support the bill.

No amendments have been proposed, indicating that the panel
will act quickly on Thursday.

The Senate legislation includes a host of provisions
affecting banks, credit unions and savings associations. It
would, for example, increase to $500 million from $250 million
the asset threshold that qualifies a small bank to be examined
every 18 months rather than every year.

The Senate bill also would clarify state regulators'

But it does not include other measures hoped for by some
members of the financial sector, such as a provision that would
reduce the number of cash transaction reports that banks must
file under the Bank Secrecy Act.

It also did not include a measure that would have allowed
federal credit unions to move to a risk-based capital

Lobbyists said they were looking ahead to the conference,
where House and Senate lawmakers try to strike a compromise
between their bills.

"Although NAFCU is disappointed that several key credit
union provisions didn't make the final draft, like risk-based
capital, we are appreciative to Sen. Crapo and the banking
committee, and support the bill and moving the process forward,
and look forward to conference," said Brad Thaler, lobbyist for
the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.