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Lobbyists urge rescue plan passage

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Lobbyists are scrambling to push Congress to devise policy changes that would propel the financial rescue plan toward passage.

The Wall Street Journal reports there are several proposed changes to the language of the plan, including “mark-to-market” accounting rules that peg assets’ value to currently low market values; a reduction in tax on dividend earnings repatriated from abroad to inject liquidity into U.S. markets; and expanded federal insurance on personal and business bank accounts to further reassure accountholders and prevent panic withdrawals.

To address those homeowners in a mortgage crisis, lobbyists are urging an extension of unemployment benefits to the policy, along with changes to the language that would allow the Treasury to shrink mortgages. The Journal reports bank and brokerage representatives hope taking such measures would “stave off a renewed effort by Democrats to allow judges to reduce mortgage obligations for homeowners in bankruptcy, which they say will raise the cost of home financing.”

Furthermore, the Journal reports, the American Bankers Association has been “lobbying for leniency in applying accounting rules that require companies to mark financial instruments to their market price, known as fair value…banks blame accounting rules they say force them to take bigger losses on these assets than warranted.”

On Tuesday, the SEC staff issued “clarifications” that will guide management and auditors in valuing financial instruments when the market for such assets has dried up. The guidance gives more flexibility in valuing securities when there isn’t a regular market for them. Financial firms say over the past year they have had to write down assets to levels lower than they are actually worth. The SEC now says in some circumstances, it would “make more sense” to rely more on the values attached to the asset than the market prices — this is flexibility the financial industry has sought, according to the Journal.


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