Controversial bank revision legislation, which most observers counted as dead for the 95th Congress, passed easily through both houses in just over four hours yesterday morning.
Once known as the Safe Banking Act, it was renamed Financial Institutions Regulatory Act after bankers protested its initial title as pejorative. The legislation prohibits many abuses by bank insiders that came to light during investigations of former budget director Bert Lance's banking and personal financial affairs.
As late as Saturday evening, it looked as if the House would be forced to accept the weaker Senate version. But tenacious Rep. Fernald J. St Germain (D-R.I.) by passed normal rules. At 2:30 a.m. the House voted 341 to 32 for the St Germain bill. By 7 a.m., with the backing of William Proxmire (D-Wis.), author of the Senate version, it passed the other house by voice vote.
The act provides consumer safeguards on electronic transfer of funds between bank and retailers, among others. It creates a central fund for credit unions to help insure their liquidity. It extends the authority of financial regulatory agencies to establish interest ceilings on savings accounts. Where savings and loan associations and commercial banks compete for checking-tupe accounts, the quarter-point interest differential enjoyed by the thrift institutions would be eliminated.
The St Germain reform provisions:
Upgrade and sharpen the regulatory machinery of the five federal agencies.
Put ceilings on borrowings by bank insiders and prohibit overdrafts by them.
Give bank regulators authority to block a change of control of a financial institution under certain circumstances.
Prohibit a bank insider from receiving preferential treatment on loans from a bank where his institution maintains a correspondent account.
Provide more public disclosure of the activities of bank insiders.
Establish a council to coordinate supervisory activities of the five bank regulators.
Limit access to bank records by federal authorities without due process of law.