U.S. Senate nears vote on financial fraud bill
WASHINGTON, April 28
WASHINGTON, April 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill on Tuesday that would beef up federal authority to pursue fraud in the mortgage industry.
The Senate voted 92-4 to approve the measure, which would also create an independent commission to try to determine the cause of the worst U.S. economic crisis in decades.
The bill would give federal prosecutors the power to pursue fraud cases involving the economic stimulus program and the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program.
"Our bill will strengthen the federal government's capacity to investigate and prosecute the kinds of financial frauds that have so severely undermined our economy and hurt so many hardworking people in this country," said Senator Patrick Leahy, a sponsor of the bill and a Vermont Democrat.
"The bill will help provide the resources and legal tools needed to police and deter fraud and to protect taxpayer-funded economic recovery efforts now being implemented," said Leahy.
The U.S. House of Representatives is considering similar legislation. The two chambers must agree on a final version before it can be signed into law.
President Barack Obama supports the legislation.
The legislation was designed to reinvigorate the battle against white-collar crime after investigators and prosecutors were diverted from the task by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The bill would give the Justice Department $165 million a year for 2010 and 2011 to hire investigators and prosecutors.
The bill would also give extra funds to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other agencies to root out fraud. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Ted Kerr)