Washington: As Congress intensified its work rewriting the nation`s financial rule book over the last three months, some big recipients of the government`s USD 700 billion bailout spent a bit less trying to influence legislators.
The throng of lobbyists pushing for financial industry interests has thickened in recent weeks in and around the hearing room of the House Financial Services Committee. The panel last week voted to regulate for the first time globally traded derivatives, the complex instruments that nearly toppled insurance giant American International Group Inc. at the height of the crisis a year ago.
The House panel is addressing other big pieces of the Obama overhaul plan in coming days — including an expected vote Wednesday to create a federal agency for consumer financial protection that has been fiercely opposed by the banking industry.
Among recipients of government rescue funds, Bank of America Corp., which received USD 45 billion, spent USD 930,000 in the July-September quarter, up from USD 800,000 in the second quarter but below the USD 1 million spent in the year-earlier period. The figures were disclosed in the bank`s third-quarter lobbying report filed Tuesday with the House clerk`s office.
Citigroup Inc., another banking titan that got USD 45 billion in taxpayer funds, trimmed its lobbying spending to USD 1.3 million in the third quarter from USD 1.7 million in the April-June period and USD 1.4 million in the second quarter of 2008. Like Bank of America, New York-based Citigroup also reported more loan losses during the third quarter as consumers struggled to keep up with their credit card and mortgage payments.
The two big banks lobbied Congress and federal agencies on a panoply of legislative issues including the proposed consumer protection agency, home mortgages and banking regulations.
Bank of America`s lobbying spending rose in the third quarter from the April-June period "because there were a substantial number of issues that required new analysis and evaluation on our part," bank spokeswoman Shirley Norton said.
Citigroup spokeswoman Molly Meiners declined to comment.
Outgoing Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, capping a year when he faced shareholder fury, regulatory scrutiny and was stripped of his chairman post at the second-largest U.S. bank, is getting no salary or bonus for this year under an accord with the government`s pay czar. Lewis is paying back about USD 1 million he has received so far out of a USD 1.5 million salary.
Charlotte, NC-based Bank of America last week said it lost more than USD 2.2 billion in the third quarter as loan losses kept rising. Profit from the bank`s wealth management business, which includes the Merrill Lynch division, aided the overall results.
Bailed-out automaker General Motors also reduced its lobbying spending, according to the mandatory disclosure reports filed with Congress covering the third quarter. GM spent USD 1.4 million on lobbying Congress and the federal government, halved from USD 2.8 million in the second quarter and below USD 2.7 million in the year-earlier period.
The government now holds a 61-percent controlling interest in the automaker.
Chrysler spent USD 822,787 in the third quarter, up from USD 316,805 in the second quarter but down from USD 1.9 million in the third quarter of 2008.
Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley`s lobbying spending slipped to USD 720,000 from USD 830,000 in the second quarter; still it increased compared with USD 690,000 in the third quarter of 2008. The company has repaid the USD 10 billion in bailout aid it had received.