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WASHINGTON-The Senate passed legislation at deadline last week to renew the federal preemptions in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which were set to expire at year-end, and provide additional identity theft protections for consumers. The National Consumer Credit Reporting System Improvement Act of 2003 (S. 1753) overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a vote of 95-2, with California Senators Diane Feinstein (D) and Barbara Boxer (D) as the only dissenters. While the two did get some amendments through, the key one they wanted to preserve, California’s tough privacy law regarding information sharing among affiliates, failed in last Tuesday’s debate by a 70-24 vote. The amendment would have required financial services companies to tell consumers when they were going to share information among their affiliates, excluding affiliates in the same line of business, and give consumers the option of opting out of that information sharing. Credit unions and other lenders had been lobbying hard against the amendment, which was also opposed by Senate Banking Committee leaders as well. The bill as it stands does have an opt out requirement for information sharing among affiliates, but it is much broader and has more loopholes, according to NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler. Amendments approved during debate of S. 1753 included a Boxer amendment eliminating an expiration on opt-outs and tightening the definition of a pre-existing business relationship; a Feinstein amendment for more restrictions on medical information sharing in the context of credit; an amendment from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) enhancing the identity theft provisions; an amendment from Senator Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) for creditors to notify appropriate federal agencies in instances of unauthorized access to financial data; and an amendment from Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) regarding the proper disposal of account information. The Senate has named Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Senators Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) to the conference committee. The House has yet to appoint conferees, House Financial Services Committee Staffer Scott Duncan said. However, Capitol Hill insiders expect Committee Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) to be included. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. Following the Senate’s approval, Treasury Secretary John Snow issued a statement, saying, “The United States Senate today took a significant step towards promoting access to credit and financial services for American consumers and implementing tough new safeguards against the spread of identity theft and its devastating effects, implementing administration proposals.” NAFCU Communications Manager John Zimmerman said of the bill’s passage, “We are very pleased that the Senate has passed its version of the FCRA legislation and we look forward to it moving out of conference committee so the president can sign it this session of Congress.” “This is a major legislative achievement and will greatly benefit credit unions and their members,” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica said. In recognition of the remaining work to be done on S. 1753 and the House version, the Senate Banking Committee postponed a hearing on the state of the financial services industry scheduled for Nov. 5. NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar and the heads of the other federal financial regulatory agencies were slated to testify. A new date and time have not been set as of press time. [email protected]

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