Federal Reserve—The nation's central bank and chief bank regulator. The Fed affects the mortgage market both by setting benchmark interest rates that guide commercial lending and by offering best-practices guidance. It's the chief rule writer for truth-in-lending laws, and it has sway over such banking-related practices as appraisals. It doesn't enforce lending laws, but some want the Fed to begin regulating mortgage brokers.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.—The primary federal regulator of more than 5,200 national banks, especially those chartered by states that don't join the Federal Reserve system. It has strong oversight powers, but it doesn't regulate non-bank lenders.
Office of Thrift Supervision—Regulates the nation's savings and loan institutions. It imposes strong rules but doesn't regulate non-bank lenders. S&Ls hold about 3.6 percent of all subprime loans.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) charters and supervises federal credit unions. It insures savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency—Regulates all nationally chartered banks, which account for about a third of all the mortgages originated in 2006. But these heavily regulated banks and their subsidiaries accounted for less than 10 percent of all subprime mortgages.
FBI—Since 1999, it's investigated mortgage fraud under nine different provisions of U.S. law. Through Sept. 30, 2006, it investigated 818 cases resulting in 263 indictments and 204 convictions, according to its 2006 Financial Crimes Report.
Federal Trade Commission—Investigates consumer complaints about the mortgage market, such as predatory lending. It's the most vigilant overseer of non-bank lenders, but the FTC's powers are limited to investigating complaints, not setting standards for non-bank lenders or mortgage brokers. It has concluded 21 probes into fraudulent mortgage lending resulting in $320 million in redress to consumers.
Office of Federal Housing Enterprise—Regulates Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, congressionally mandated housing finance organizations. They bundle and sell home mortgages as mortgage-backed bonds.
Securities and Exchange Commission—Oversees mortgage-backed securities issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, as well as fast-growing private-sector ones, but only under the same laws that govern stocks, bonds and disclosure to investors.
Department of Housing and Urban Development—Its Federal Housing Administration provides loans to low- and moderate-income Americans with good credit. It doesn't issue subprime loans, those given to the riskiest borrowers.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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