How Financial Reform Will Affect Consumers

By Daniel Wagner, AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — If some lawmakers have their way, brokers will have to show they're serving their customers' financial interests. Debit cards could be cheaper to use. And homeowners would be less vulnerable to high-cost mortgages.

House-Senate negotiators will start crafting a final financial overhaul bill this week. They already agree on many issues. Both bills would create a process to close large failing banks, form a council to regulate the financial system and force tighter oversight of certain risky investments.

But much remains unsettled. Congressional leaders might try to attract decisive votes by striking or changing some provisions. On issues where the two bills conflict, final decisions could mean big changes for investors, homebuyers and taxpayers.

The compromise bill must be approved by both houses and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. The president has said he wants a bill on his desk by July 4.

Here are some areas where Congress' final decisions will touch ordinary Americans:

INVESTORS

House bill: Regulators would hold stock brokers more accountable for the advice they give clients.

Senate bill: Regulators would study the subject. They wouldn't be required to tighten existing rules.

Impact: Under the House plan, brokers would face the same rules that govern investment advisers. They'd be required to serve their clients' financial interests and would be legally liable if they advised them to act against those interests. To prove they're complying, brokers would disclose more information about their incentives or any conflicts of interest.

Prognosis: The House measure is likely to make the final bill, experts say, despite opposition from insurance brokers.

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