WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank laid out his near-term agenda Wednesday, including a Jan. 22 hearing on executive compensation at financial companies and a Feb. 3 hearing on why banks are not lending more.
The Massachusetts Democrat said that he will meet soon with his caucus to craft a full agenda for the year and that questions related to housing finance would be a major theme. In particular, he said, the committee will examine a future structure for the government-sponsored enterprises. Separately, the committee also announced plans for a Jan. 21 hearing by its financial institutions subcommittee on the process for seizing failing banks.
Frank gave no dates to begin probing the GSEs' future but said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would never be able to return to their previous structure.
"We'll be deciding what happens with them … ; Fannie and Freddie clearly no longer exist as they one time did; they are now in effect public utilities," he said. "They will not be a private stock company with a public function the way they have been."
Frank said the panel's debate on the future of housing finance will also include a close look at the Federal Home Loan Bank System, Ginnie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration as well as the issue of mortgage servicing so that, in the future, there is no confusion over who is responsible for modifying mortgages even when loans have been securitized.
More immediate, however, are the subjects of corporate governance and banks' lending responsibility, Frank said.
He did not reveal a witness list for either of the scheduled hearings, but Frank said he is "dissatisfied with the level of lending that is going on with the banks.
"The problem is, the banks have found other ways to make money," he said, referring to fees.
On compensation, he said that the House has already passed a reform to give shareholders a say on pay and to curb excessive risk-taking. He is looking to see what more can be done, and is interested in the Obama administration's proposal to tax banks, which was expected to be announced this morning. (See related story)
"The question of compensation for people in the financial industry is a legitimate cause of concern for the country as a whole, and we are going to take steps to address it," he said.