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WASHINGTON-The House Financial Services Committee overwhelmingly passed H.R. 2622, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, out of committee recently. In a late night session before the House left for its August recess, the committee approved the FACT Act, which permanently extends the federal preemption of credit reporting standards and bolsters identity theft prevention efforts, by a vote of 61-3. Committee members Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) voted against the bill, according to NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler. “Today’s vote marks an extraordinary moment for our nation’s consumers,” Financial Services Committee Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) said following the markup. “This landmark legislation strikes the appropriate balance between consumers’ access to vibrant credit markets and the protections they need to fight identity theft and to ensure the accuracy of their credit reports.” Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) added, “The national uniform credit reporting system has lowered costs and increased choice and convenience for American consumers. But by far the most striking result of our national credit reporting system is the dramatically increased availability of credit-the democratization of credit. Low- and middle-income families are the big winners under the Fair And Accurate Credit Transactions Act.” The legislation includes provisions to provide consumers a free credit report once a year upon request and access to their credit scores, raise the significance of consumer-initiated fraud alerts, improve consumer awareness of their rights as victims of identity theft, improve reporting accuracy, and simplify consumers’ ability to limit unsolicited credit offers, among other things. “The key to the huge vote was a single amendment that (Financial Services Ranking Member) Barney Frank (D-Mass.) offered and was accepted by Chairman Oxley and that was an amendment that deals with furnisher liability and responsibility.It became clear that if this provision were to pass that Barney Frank would then be very sympathetic (to industry interests) on a lot of the other amendments that were offered and may have been harmful,” CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn explained. “So with his help, the vote became as large as it was because that particular amendment was passed and CUNA was glad to be a part of the deliberations on that particular provision.” In total, 11 amendments to the legislation were accepted, including ones to limit disclosure of medical information in preparing credit reports, prohibit lenders from sharing negative information about a fraudulent transaction, order a GAO report on race and gender in the credit application process, and provide consumers new rights to correct inaccurate information on their credit reports. A number of recommendations from CUNA’s testimony on H.R. 2622 made it into the House Financial Services Committee’s report to the House. Kohn stated that these suggestions included time frames concerning fraud alerts, a tighter definition of `police report,’ and inclusion of NCUA as a federal banking agency, which had been initially overlooked in the bill. The House adjourned for its August recess beginning last week, but plans to pick up the bill shortly after returning. The Senate held its final two hearings on the matter last week and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby is expected to introduce legislation in that chamber shortly. Kohn said that the overwhelming vote that is expected in the House after recess should push the Senate to speed up action on the bill. In addition, the Treasury Department has been very supportive of the FACT Act. Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Wayne A. Abernathy released a statement following the committee vote, saying, “I wish to applaud the members of the House Financial Services Committee for their dedicated work, approving the.Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, by a vote of 61-3.Significantly, this bill takes direct aim at the terrible problem of identity theft, giving consumers, financial institutions, and financial regulators powerful tools to fight this problem. “This legislation is timely. Virtually every day brings news of the growing scope of identity theft. New estimates suggest that as many as seven million Americans may have become victims of this crime in the last year. But the real tragedy is the way this crime disrupts the life of each one of its victims. The tools in this legislation will strengthen the fight against identity theft.” [email protected]

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