Nation & World

Bank lobbying goes into overdrive over bailout plan

An already busy year for bank lobbying intensified this week with the rush to approve a Wall Street rescue plan.

Charlotte's big banks, Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp., are among the players in the frenzy to hammer out legislation that would help banks offload troubled mortgage-related assets that are bogging down their balance sheets. Lawmakers were working toward an agreement Thursday, and lobbyists are expected to continue pressing their case until a bill is approved.

The biggest fight is likely to be over whether to include a provision that would allow judges to restructure troubled home loans in bankruptcy court. The Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, which favors the proposal, and the American Bankers Association, which opposes it, both sent e-mail alerts Thursday urging their constituents to express their views to members of Congress.

Consumer advocates argue this measure would provide relief to struggling borrowers who have been unable to get loan modifications from their lenders. Earlier this week, Martin Eakes of the Center for Responsible Lending said the bankruptcy proposal would prove to be “the only significant, direct benefit to the middle class in the $700 billion bailout program.”

The banking industry, however, argues this change would mean more uncertainty and risk to lenders, who wouldn't be able to count on the terms of the loans they make. “In my opinion, it's the line-in-the-sand issue for the industry,” said Don Lampe, an attorney for Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, who is involved in the legislative process, representing financial services industry clients.

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