Senate would break ties between banks and credit rating agencies

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has voted to end the ability of financial institutions to choose the credit rating agencies that rate their investment products.

A Senate amendment to a broader financial regulation bill would require an independent board to assign ratings firms to assess the risks of new investments.

Currently, banks issuing investments select and pay ratings agencies for their assessments. Critics argue that relationship created conflicts of interest and that the agencies overrated risky investments that fueled the financial crisis.

The amendment, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, passed 64-35 over the objections of Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

The Senate also voted to end the government's reliance on ratings agencies as a standard for determining credit worthiness.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has agreed to roll back a proposal that would force banks to own a piece of mortgage-backed securities that they sell to institutional investors.

Senators voted to give banks a way to avoid the requirement that they hold at least a 5 percent interest in mortgages they assemble for sale. Banks lobbied against the requirement — part of a package of new financial rules the Senate is considering to ward off a repeat of the financial crisis.

The changes would permit banks to escape the 5 percent risk standard if regulators determine the residential or commercial mortgages they sell meet stringent underwriting standards.

The initial requirement was designed to force banks to have "skin in the game" and ensure that they make better loans. Toxic securities backed by bad mortgages were at the center of the 2008 economic breakdown.