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Financial regulation bill to have minimal effect on LI

Street signs outside the New York Stock Exchange.

Street signs outside the New York Stock Exchange. (Feb. 10, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

The massive financial regulation bill that is nearing completion likely will have minimal effect on Long Island financial services companies, executives say - but for the most part, they still don't like it.

The bill fixes the wrong problems, regulates things that don't need it and costs the wrong people money, they said Friday.

Although the bill for the first time imposes regulation on many nonbank lenders, Joseph Ficalora, president, chairman and chief executive of Westbury-based New York Community Bancorp - the biggest bank company on Long Island - said it didn't go far enough to crack down on them.

"This Congress spent more time figuring out who was taking steroids in baseball in 2004 than it did dealing with unregulated lenders," he said. "The gist of what has been done in Washington has little rational effect on the causes of the crisis."

The bill will force banks to phase out trust-preferred securities, a hybrid security that banks now can count as capital. "By taking away capital, they take away the capacity to lend," Ficalora said, adding that this will restrict credit and hurt the economy.

Others had different problems with the bill. Credit unions and some smaller banks objected to restrictions sought by merchants on intercharge fees, which are the fees levied on merchants every time they accept a payment with credit or debit cards.

"I'm going to have a reduction in income," said Robert Allen, president and chief executive of Farmingville-based Teachers Federal Credit Union. "How severe and how deep, I don't know yet."

Teachers makes $2.5 million a year now on such fees, which he said costs merchants just "pennies per transaction." To replace any loss, he said credit unions may have to charge fees for services that have been free for members until now.

Financial planner Jack Chite of Sayville said the bill likely will have no impact on him or his clients, most of whom are investors nearing or in retirement. It's possible that regulation may restrict the range of sound investments and might make planners be more careful about how they manage investments, he said.

He was unsure if the regulation would help.

"I don't think government can regulate morality," he said. "You have to enforce the rules you already have."

Kevin O'Connor, president and chief executive of Bridgehampton National Bank, said the main effect on consumers is that it will be harder to get a mortgage, but after the ravages caused by the subprime crisis, "that could be OK."

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