December 10, 2019

Uncertainty at Fed Over Its Stimulus Plans and Its Leadership

President Obama suggested late Monday that he was likely to nominate a new Fed chairman this year, saying that Mr. Bernanke had “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.” Mr. Obama added that Mr. Bernanke, whose second four-year term in office ends in January, has done an “outstanding job.”

The comments bounced around Washington on Tuesday even as Mr. Bernanke convened a regularly scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee to debate how much longer the Fed will continue its current efforts to stimulate the economy. The Fed is not expected to announce any immediate changes on Wednesday, at the close of the meeting, but investors are watching for signs that the Fed is considering scaling back later this year.

The central bank is buying $85 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities, in addition to holding short-term interest rates near zero. Both measures are intended to encourage job creation by easing financial conditions, and the Fed pledged to press the campaign until it saw “sustained improvement” in the outlook for the labor market.

But that message has been muddled recently by conflicting pronouncements about the duration of the asset purchases from several of the 19 Fed officials who help make policy. Mr. Bernanke contributed to the confusion by telling Congress last month that the Fed might begin to reduce the pace of its purchases this year — but might not — while avoiding any clear account of how the central bank would make such a decision.

Uncertainty about the Fed’s plans and its leadership has focused attention on the news conference that Mr. Bernanke plans to hold on Wednesday afternoon after the Federal Open Market Committee releases a policy statement. The Fed also will release economic projections by the 19 officials, which could help to explain the apparent momentum toward doing less by showing how quickly they expect the economy to grow and unemployment to decline.

“Federal Reserve officials believe that clear communication about policy intentions can help manage market expectations and so increase the effectiveness of monetary policy,” Kevin Logan, chief United States economist at HSBC, wrote to clients on Monday. “Lately, however, the policy makers appear to have muddled the message and so have created confusion rather than clarity on the policy outlook.” The news conference, he said, is a chance “to clarify.”

The confusion is costly. A recent survey of the 21 companies authorized to trade securities with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a list that includes most of the nation’s largest financial companies, found widespread agreement that uncertainty about the Fed’s plans was effectively tightening financial conditions. Interest rates on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for the Fed’s efforts to reduce borrowing costs, rose to 2.20 percent on Tuesday from a low of 1.66 percent at the start of May.

Some analysts argue that the Fed still intends to press ahead with asset purchases at least through the end of the year. They note that Mr. Bernanke has allowed dissenters to command the public stage even as they exercise relatively little influence over the course of Fed policy. Some also see the cacophony as an intentional damper on the ebullience of investors, carving out time for the benefits of low interest rates to spread through the economy.

The unemployment rate has fallen only slightly since the Fed began its latest round of bond buying, to 7.6 percent in May from 7.8 percent in September. And even that decline happened mostly because people stopped looking for work. The share of American adults with jobs has not increased in three years. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation has sagged to 1.05 percent, the lowest level in more than 50 years and markedly below the 2 percent annual pace the Fed considers healthy.

“In our view it would be risky to deliver a hawkish monetary policy message at a time when growth remains sluggish, inflation continues to trend down and market inflation expectations are dropping sharply,” Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a note to clients last week.

Other analysts, however, see mounting evidence that Mr. Bernanke and his allies would like to buy fewer bonds, although most still do not expect the Fed to reduce the pace of its asset purchases before September at the earliest. Fed officials have described the asset purchases as an experiment with uncertain consequences, particularly the potential disruption of financial markets, and warned that those risks might increase with the size of the Fed’s holdings.

While the pace of growth has increased only modestly, the worst-case possibility, in which mismanaged fiscal policy sends the economy sliding back into recession, has faded. “The asset purchases may have been simply insurance against a fiscal disaster that did not materialize,” wrote Tim Duy, an economist at the University of Oregon.

Moreover, some Fed officials have concluded that large job gains are beyond reach. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland wrote recently that the Fed should be satisfied if the economy adds 150,000 jobs a month — well below the monthly average of 176,000 so far this year. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago set the bar even lower, at 80,000 jobs a month. Both estimates are based on the assumption that many of the people who stopped looking for work in recent years will never return, allowing the unemployment rate to return closer to its normal levels during an economic expansion even without a rebound in employment.

Some of these decisions will most likely be made after Mr. Bernanke leaves office. Mr. Obama, in an interview with the journalist Charlie Rose on PBS, avoided answering a direct question about reappointing Mr. Bernanke. He said instead that Mr. Bernanke “has been an outstanding partner along with the White House, in helping us recover much stronger than, for example, our European partners, from what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions.”

The interview, taken together with earlier comments by Mr. Bernanke, reinforces a growing expectation that the administration plans to nominate a new Fed chairman this year. The position requires Senate confirmation. Only three people have held the Fed chairmanship in the last 30 years, and the Obama administration has an opportunity to put a Democrat atop the central bank for the first time since the resignation of Paul Volcker in the late 1980s.

Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairwoman, is widely regarded as a leading candidate. She would become the first woman to head the Fed or any other major central bank. Other possible candidates include Timothy F. Geithner and Lawrence H. Summers, both former Obama advisers, and Roger W. Ferguson Jr., a former Fed vice chairman.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/business/economy/uncertainty-at-fed-over-its-stimulus-plans-and-its-leadership.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

FBI Criticizes False Media Reports of a Bombing Arrest

Numerous organizations, including The Associated Press, The Boston Globe and several local Boston television stations, erroneously reported Wednesday afternoon that an arrest had been made, or that a suspect was in custody, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. Two of the reports came from CNN and the Fox News Channel, both the subject of widespread criticism last June after misreporting the result of the Supreme Court ruling on President Obama’s health care overhaul law.

CNN and Fox News spent about an hour discussing the news of an arrest with various correspondents and experts before backing off when they received further information.

NBC News held back on reporting news of an arrest during continuing coverage on its MSNBC cable channel. It reported that no arrest had been made and that no person had been firmly identified as under suspicion. (The New York Times did not report that there was a suspect or an arrest.)

The F.B.I. issued a statement later in the afternoon: “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

CNN broke news of an arrest at 1:45 p.m., with the correspondent John King citing law enforcement sources. About a half-hour earlier, Mr. King had reported a “breakthrough in the identification of a suspect” and included details of a physical description.

“I was told by one of these sources, who is a law enforcement official, that this was a dark-skinned male,” he said.

By about 2:45, one of CNN’s law enforcement experts, Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the F.B.I., appeared on the air and reported that he had three sources who assured him no arrest had been made. The network issued a statement later in the afternoon that cited the three sources who had given CNN the information it used to break the news of the arrest: “CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information we reported our findings.”

On Fox News, the anchor Megyn Kelly explained the revised reporting on the arrest, saying that the usual journalistic process calls for reporters to rely on trusted sources to confirm information. “It appears in this case some confirmations were issued when perhaps they should not have been,” Ms. Kelly said.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for The Associated Press, denied The A.P. had said a suspect was arrested but only that one was “in custody.” But the news service had also reported earlier that a suspect was “about to be arrested.” Both reports turned out to be wrong. As of late Wednesday, The A.P. had not acknowledged that it had misreported the information.

Judy Muller, a former network news correspondent who teaches journalism at the University of Southern California, wrote in an e-mail, “I fear we have permanently entered the Age of the Retraction. All the lessons of the past — from Richard Jewell to NPR’s announcement of the death of Gabby Giffords to CNN’s erroneous report on the Supreme Court Ruling on ObamaCare — fail to inform the present. The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principle of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: After Cameo, Poland Spring Uncaps a Response

The phenomenon of brands reacting in real time in social media is fascinating to watch as it changes in real time.

At the moment, it seems there is growing expectation that if a product is involved in a moment in the public eye, it ought to react immediately in social media like Facebook or Twitter. But not just any reaction: it seems that the response needs to be self-deprecating and not too self-absorbed, striking a balance between silly and pompous and, above all, deemed to be timely.

When Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, reached for a bottle of Poland Spring water on Tuesday night during the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address,  social media exploded with mentions of the brand.

Many of those exclamations were humorous, but they soon took an incredulous tone when it became apparent that Poland Spring was not commenting in social media on its surprise role in the Rubio response.

In fact, an examination of the Poland Spring Twitter feed indicates that there has not been a post since July 2010.

Poland Spring — which is sold by the Nestle Waters North America division of Nestle — finally offered a comment in social media on Wednesday morning, with a post on its Facebook page.  The post was accompanied by a photograph of a bottle of Poland Spring in front of the kind of mirror a star would use in his or her dressing room.

“Reflecting on our cameo,” the post read. “What a night!”

By early Wednesday afternoon, the post had drawn more than 300 “likes” and 120 “shares.” There were also comments, which ranged from lighthearted (“Congratulations on your prime-time photobomb! Stay thirsty my friends …”) to critical (“The reflection is wrong. Who put this image together?”).

Poland Spring also provided a statement to CNBC, which CNBC shared on its Twitter feed:  “We’re glad Poland Spring was close at hand for Sen. Rubio last night at his moment of need for refreshment.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/after-cameo-poland-spring-uncaps-a-response/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Obama Meets C.E.O.’s as Fiscal Reckoning Nears

If Congress and the president cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by January, more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect immediately — a prospect many chief executives and others warn could tip the economy back into recession.

Even so, Mr. Obama has some fence-mending to do before he can count on any serious backing from the business community.

“The president brought up that he hadn’t always had the best relationship with business, and he didn’t think he deserved that, but he understood that’s where things were and wanted it to be better,” said David M. Cote, chief executive of Honeywell. He was one of a dozen corporate leaders invited to meet Mr. Obama at the White House for 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon, after the president’s first news conference since the election.

While Mr. Obama did not present a detailed plan at Wednesday’s meeting or reveal what he would propose in terms of new corporate taxes, he strongly reiterated that he would not allow tax cuts for the middle class to expire. The president, according to attendees and aides, said he was committed to a balanced approach of reductions in entitlements and other government spending and increases in revenue.

With time running out, many people expect the president and Republican leaders in Congress to come up with a short-term compromise that prevents the full slate of tax increases and spending cuts from hitting in January. That would give both sides more time to come up with a far-reaching deal on entitlement spending, even as they work on a broad tax overhaul later next year.

One corporate official briefed on the meeting said that the chief executives came away with a sense that Mr. Obama was poised to present a more formal proposal in the next few days, but that he did not press them for support on particular policies. “It was more of a back and forth,” he said.

The chief executives from some of the country’s biggest and best-known companies, including Procter Gamble and I.B.M., were not unified on everything, according to one who was interviewed after the meeting.

Many of the executives who described the meeting would speak only on condition of anonymity.

The outreach to business comes as both the White House and corporate America maneuver ahead of the year-end deadline, as well as the beginning of Mr. Obama’s second term. Many executives were put off by what they saw as antibusiness rhetoric coming from the White House in his first term, and many also oppose tax increases on the rich that Mr. Obama favors but would hit them personally.

Both sides have plenty to gain from a better relationship. Business leaders want to buffer their image after the recession and the financial crisis, while Mr. Obama would gain valuable leverage if he could persuade even a few chief executives to come out in favor of higher taxes on people with incomes over $250,000.

Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, publicly endorsed higher tax rates in an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

“I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate, but only if they are joined by serious cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements,” he wrote.

While Mr. Blankfein and other Wall Street leaders have been speaking out about the dangers of the fiscal impasse, only one executive from the financial services industry, Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express, was at Wednesday’s meeting.

Afterward, the corporate leaders seemed pleased with the tone of the meeting but cautious about the prospect of finding common ground with the White House on the budget choices facing Congress and the president.

“I’d say everybody came away feeling pretty good about the whole discussion,” Mr. Cote said. “Now, all of us are C.E.O.’s, so we’ve learned not to confuse words with results. And that’s what we still need to see.”

Ursula M. Burns, chief executive of Xerox, who was also at the meeting, said afterward that it was clear that “we’re going to have to work through some sticking points.” But while “we didn’t get into too many specifics,” she said, it was also made clear that “we cannot go over the fiscal cliff.”

Ms. Burns’s comments about the potentially dire consequences of the fiscal impasse echoed those of other chief executives, including many in the Business Roundtable, which began an ad campaign Tuesday calling on lawmakers to resolve the issue quickly. The Campaign to Fix the Debt, a new group with a $40 million budget and the support of many Fortune 500 chiefs, began its own ad campaign on Monday.

Michael T. Duke, chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, warned in a statement after the meeting that “before the end of the year, Washington needs to find an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff.” He said Walmart customers “are working hard to adapt to the ‘new normal,’ but their confidence is still very fragile. They are shopping for Christmas now, and they don’t need uncertainty over a tax increase.”

 

Helene Cooper reported from Washington and Nelson D. Schwartz from New York. Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Washington.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/business/obama-seeks-new-start-with-executives.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: CBS Profit and Revenue Increase on Higher Licensing Fees

The CBS Corporation said on Wednesday that its revenue and earnings increased in the third quarter, reflecting sturdy growth in licensing fees for television shows and subscription fees for stations that more than offset a slight drop in advertising revenue.

CBS’s total revenue was $3.42 billion, up from $3.37 billion in the same quarter last year. Its net income rose 16 percent, to $391 million from $338 million last year. Its earnings per share were 60 cents, compared with 50 cents a share last year.

Excluding a one-time adjustment, the company earned $426 million, or 65 cents a share.

Leslie Moonves, CBS’s chief executive, attributed the results to a continuing “transformation” of the company into one that relies less on advertising revenue and more on distribution revenue than it used to.

The most recent example of a new distribution deal came on Monday, when the company made a multiyear deal with Hulu to stream episodes of old TV shows like “I Love Lucy” on the Web site.

Mr. Moonves, who signed a contract extension last month, said on a conference call with investors Wednesday afternoon that CBS was considering, for the first time, “opportunities to license past seasons of current CBS and Showtime programming.” Such deals could let viewers catch up on “The Good Wife” or “Homeland” through services like Hulu or Netflix.

Advertising still accounts for more than half of CBS’s revenue. In a few months, the network will televise the year’s biggest advertising event, the Super Bowl. Mr. Moonves said Wednesday that some 30-second commercial spots during the game had sold for more than $4 million.

But advertising revenue dipped 3 percent companywide in the third quarter, dragged down by weakness at CBS Radio and six nights of pre-empted prime-time shows during the national political conventions. The company’s chief financial officer, Joseph Ianniello, said some political ad buys were shifted to the fourth quarter from the third, which ended in September, “as campaigns chose to spend their dollars closer to the election.”

Despite the advertising headwinds, the segment of CBS that includes its broadcast network and its studio posted a 3 percent gain in revenue, in part because of increases in retransmission fees and television license fees. Revenue in the segment that includes its local stations increased 1 percent, with gains at its television stations offset by losses at its radio stations.

Acknowledging a continued drift away from live viewing of prime-time TV shows, Mr. Moonves said CBS would “make it a priority” to get paid by advertisers for all viewing. Ad rates are currently set based on the viewing of commercials within three days of their air date, a standard known as C3, but Mr. Moonves said CBS wanted to be paid for viewing “beyond C3.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/profit-rises-16-at-cbs-on-higher-licensing-fees/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Concerts to Be Focus in Shift From HDNet to AXS TV

The logo for a new cable channel, AXS TV, set to arrive in the summer.The logo for a new cable channel, AXS TV, set to arrive in the summer.

6:25 p.m. | Updated Ryan Seacrest, his talent agency CAA and the events promoter A.E.G. have been talking for three years about making a cable channel for concerts, live events and other entertainment.

Now they have found the channel space for it at HDNet, the pioneering but poorly distributed channel owned by the billionaire sports and media mogul Mark Cuban. This summer, HDNet will become AXS TV, a joint venture of Mr. Cuban, Mr. Seacrest’s media holding company, CAA and A.E.G.

“We’re going to be able to take what I had hoped to do with HDNet — which was to be live, live, live — and accelerate that considerably,” Mr. Cuban said in a telephone interview before the deal was announced Wednesday afternoon.

Similarly, Mr. Seacrest — who has been the host of the live Fox broadcast “American Idol” for nearly a decade — said that “music, live entertainment and live events” would be the base of the channel. His production company will conceive shows for the channel, as it already does for E! and Bravo, two channels that are owned by Comcast.

Financial terms of the joint venture were not disclosed, and Mr. Cuban would not say whether he retained the majority ownership of HDNet. But Mr. Cuban and his new partners said he would continue to run the channel, which was formed in 2001 as a destination for what was then hard to find on television: high-definition programming.

HDNet grew as high-definition viewership grew, and Mr. Cuban said it was profitable last year. But to date it is offered in just 27 million households, putting it out of reach of most of the roughly 100 million cable and satellite households in the United States. The partners said Wednesday that their top priority was gaining wider distribution. “Distribution will be the first step,” Mr. Seacrest said.

To that end, the partners announced that Dish Network had agreed to expand its distribution of the channel to include non-high-definition homes. The change will allow AXS TV to have more than 35 million subscribers.

In an interesting twist, A.E.G. plans to provide what it calls “unique ticketing opportunities” to Dish Network viewers of AXS TV. Mr. Cuban imagined a scenario that would have artists announcing a concert, then directing viewers to log online with their Dish account to get “first crack” at tickets.

“AXS TV brings DISH subscribers a premier TV destination for concert-goers to watch the most popular concert acts and provide opportunities for unique ticket sales at venues near them,” Joe Clayton, the chief executive of Dish, said in a statement.

A.E.G., the second-largest concert promoter in the United States behind Live Nation, began to roll out the brand name AXS, pronounced “access,” last year with a Web site for concert ticket sales. Executives said Wednesday that AXS TV will take advantage of the company’s events and concert sites, including the L.A. Live entertainment complex in Los Angeles and The O2 in London, and CAA’s relationships with artists and managers.

These are “existing resources,” said Tim Leiweke, the president of A.E.G., that can be mined for new content for the cable channel and its Web site.

Stressing that artists not affiliated with A.E.G. or CAA will be welcomed, he said, “This will be open to anyone and everyone that wants to use this platform to allow an artist to go and talk to their fans.”

He added, “That said, I guarantee that A.E.G. is going to use it.”

With the joint venture, Mr. Cuban is taking the same approach tried by several other channel owners — partnering with other established brands to propel a channel forward. Discovery Communications has partnerships with Oprah Winfrey for OWN and with Hasbro for a children’s channel, The Hub.

The arrangement also acknowledges what he called an “incredibly difficult” environment for independent channel owners. Most major cable channels are owned by media companies that have bundles of channels, affording those companies some advantages in negotiations with producers and distributors.

Of the joint venture assets, he said, “it’s an incredible upgrade for us that would have been difficult — impossible — to replicate.”

Some of the existing programming on HDNet, including mixed martial arts matches and the newsmagazine “Dan Rather Reports,” will remain in place on AXS TV, Mr. Cuban said. A raunchier subset of late-night shows — what he calls “the unrated stuff” — will be cut out.

Reflecting the emphasis on live TV, Mr. Cuban noted that Mr. Rather already has had some live programs on HDNet, including coverage of the New Hampshire Republican primary last week. Mr. Rather does not have a formal contract at HDNet; “as long as he wants to be there, he’s there,” Mr. Cuban said Wednesday, repeating what he has said in the past.

Mr. Cuban’s other channel, HDNet Movies, will remain as-is.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f08eda307276889911626fa692256fbb

Banks Defeated in Senate Vote Over Debit Card Fees

The debit card rules were a major part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law passed last year. The Senate vote on Wednesday afternoon was the first major challenge to the new law.

Although 54 senators voted in favor of the delay, the measure, which was sponsored by Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who is facing a tough re-election battle next year, and Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, failed to garner the 60 votes that were required for it to pass under Senate rules. Forty-five senators voted against the measure.

Even with the defeat, the vote represented a remarkable come-from-behind lobbying campaign by banks to recover from the drubbing they took during the anti-Wall Street atmosphere that prevailed last year. The debit card measure, sponsored by Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, passed last year by a two-to-one ratio after little debate and no hearings.

The Wednesday vote, which followed a vigorous floor debate, was a victory for retailers, who have complained that banks and the companies that control the largest debit card networks, Visa and MasterCard, have consistently raised the fees on debit card transactions even as the market has grown rapidly and technology costs have declined.

Those fees topped $20 billion last year, according to industry reports.

The Federal Reserve, as guided by the new law, had proposed rules that would cut the average debit card processing fee to 7 to 12 cents per transaction, from 44 cents currently. Though Congress exempted small banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the new limits, banking regulators warned that such a two-tiered fee system among banks would not be competitive. Opponents of the delay said that all but 100 banks and three credit unions would be exempt from the fee restrictions.

The new regulations are scheduled to take effect by July 21, and the Federal Reserve, which received more than 11,000 comments on its proposals, has said that it intends to meet the deadline.

The vote also provided a victory for Senator Durbin. Mr. Durbin, who sponsored the original measure to roll back the fees that banks are able to charge on debit transactions, was opposed in the effort by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, whose constituency includes Wall Street and major banks.

Mr. Durbin said that a delay of the debit rules would have kept fees at current levels and given banks “a windfall of profit that they do not deserve.”

By coming close to victory, banks are likely to be emboldened to fight other regulations being drawn up under the Dodd-Frank bill. Those include rules that would subject derivatives to increased margin requirements and force derivative trades through a central exchange. Bankers and business lobbies are also opposed to the structure of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is scheduled to take over regulation of mortgages and other consumer-related areas from other banking regulators.

“This shows the banking industry has mounted a very effective fight,” Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation in Washington, which monitors lobbying activity, said in an interview.

Both sides sought to portray the fight as pitting big, well-financed interests against small-town retailers or banks. Bank lobbyists said that the rule would most harm small community banks and credit unions, while benefitting giant retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot that account for most of the nation’s debit card transactions.

Similarly, a coalition of retailers framed the debate as the giant banks that issue the most debit cards — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — against mom-and-pop retailers who were trying to scrape by on meager profit margins.

There were elements of truth to both arguments. Home Depot executives, for example, told financial analysts on a conference call this year that a cap on debit fees could save the company $35 million a year.

Banks, in a flurry of ads in subway cars and on television, portrayed the debit fee reduction as a $12 billion gift to retailers. “Bureaucrats want to take away your debit card!” read a print ad that tried to argue that the fee cuts would make debit cards so unprofitable that smaller banks and credit unions would either charge for debit cards or raise fees on checking accounts or other consumer services to make up the loss.

Similarly, independent business owners testified before Congress that debit fees had raised their costs. 

The Federal Reserve had already missed an April deadline to complete the debit card rules, and lobbyists on both sides of the issue said that Fed officials expressed a desire for Congress to take the issue out of their hands.

Though the major card companies said they would work to put a system in place that allowed for two tiers of charges — one for big banks subject to the limits and another for smaller banks that were exempt — the top banking regulators at the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation each expressed doubts that such a system would work, because market forces would guide transactions to the lower-cost option.

“It’s going to affect the revenues of the small issuers,” Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, told a Senate committee earlier this year, “and it could result in some smaller banks being less profitable or even failing.”

The Sunlight Foundation said in an April report that 24 lobbying firms had been hired last year to influence action on the debit card rules. Eighteen of those firms were registered as representatives of the two major debit card networks, Visa and MasterCard. A large portion of those lobbyists have gone through the revolving door between government and industry:  68 of the 79 people who registered as lobbyists for Visa or MasterCard previously worked in government, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

Among the heavy-hitters who worked to influence votes on the debit card measure were Richard A. Gephardt, the former House majority leader and a Democrat, who represented Visa. The retailers had Don Nickles, the former Republican senator from Oklahoma, in their corner.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8c7f398273f930e786cdbc6f864ab4a5