Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., says federal banking regulators need to "step up" and tighten the underwriting of certain subprime mortgage products that he contends are responsible for rising defaults and foreclosures.The committee chairman also said he is "annoyed" that the regulators have not responded to his December letter regarding subprime 2/28 adjustable-rate mortgages. In the letter, six members of the committee, including Sen. Dodd, urged the regulators to extend the protections of the nontraditional mortgage guidance to borrowers of 2/28 ARMs, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. "It is unacceptable to me that they have gone this long without responding to the letter," Sen. Dodd told reporters after a hearing on subprime lending and foreclosures. Mortgage industry representatives presented evidence that there is nothing unusual about the recent rise in foreclosures. But Sen. Dodd maintains that certain subprime practices and loan products are causing the problem. "This is a problem that you cannot attribute to the kind of shocks that normally cause a spike in foreclosures rates," he said. The banking committee chairman is planning to call the regulators to testify before the committee in a few weeks.

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