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ORLANDO, Fla. — Many in the lending industry were taken aback when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke chided lenders to think about forgiving a portion of outstanding mortgage debt.

Bernanke’s speech at the Independent Community Bankers of America’s Annual Conference on March 4 marked the first time he spoke of lenders writing down the principal owed on loans as a means of stemming the current flood of foreclosures. “I was surprised when I saw that,” said CUNA Economist Bill Hampel. “I think this was more moral suasion on the part of the Fed. It seems to be clear evidence that the problem has become more serious, and it could be evidence of frustration.”

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