April 19, 2018
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Panel debates finance reform effort

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A local panel of financial experts debated the behemoth finance reform bill that is under debate in Congress on Monday and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills moderated the discussion.

At the table with Mills were Brent Foster, vice president of Merrill Bank, Eric Cioppa, deputy superintendent of insurance, Gordon McDonald, project manager for Pew Economic Policy Group, and John Reed, chief executive officer for Maine Savings Federal Credit Union.

“We all know what happened in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 in Maine” when the economy began a downward spiral, Mills said to kick off the debate.

She listed the housing market and high oil prices that hurt Maine consumers, combined with the collapse of the financial system and federal bailouts for big banks and financial institutions.

“Congress’ response to that appears to be a 1,400-page bill” for federal finance reform, Mills said.

The high points of the hour-long debate focused on how the bill, if enacted, would affect banks, nonbank financial lending institutions, credit agencies, dividend markets and possibly fees for debit card use.

McDonald started the talk by relaying details of a recent Pew survey of 500 likely Maine voters.

“Nearly 90 percent have an unfavorable view of the economy,” he said, adding that 78 percent support a comprehensive financial reform plan, and 92 percent favor protecting consumers from harmful business practices.

“They’re looking to Congress for some action,” he said.

Foster said he believes the proposed bill, “doesn’t address the problem” because it doesn’t address nonbanks, such as mortgage companies, that, he said, are the ones who caused the subprime lending predatory lending problems.

“It’s hard to imagine good public policy is going to come out of this process,” he said.

Cioppa agreed, saying “the bill, as it currently exists, is a bad idea.”

He said current state laws and financial rules “have worked. They’re time tested” and that there are “significant preemptive features of the proposed legislation” that will not protect consumers.

Reed said, “there is plenty of blame to go around” and taxpayers are mad about the current economy and for that reason are pushing for change.

“Something is going to happen,” he said. “Regulation … needs to be improved and it needs to be done in a balanced manner.”

All the panelist said the numerous amendments in play could change the bill entirely.

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