* More than a dozen credit card firms to visit White House
* Obama seeks "new rules of the road" for card companies
* Obama aides working with House, Senate lawmakers on bill
By Caren Bohan and John Poirier
WASHINGTON, April 23 President Barack Obama
will weigh in on Thursday on the lending practices of U.S.
credit card companies, an issue that has triggered an outcry
from consumers hit with high fees and interest rates.
Obama has joined a push by lawmakers to rein in credit card
practices that his aides have labeled as "abusive" and plans to
air some of his concerns at a White House meeting with 13
executives from top banks and companies that issue the cards.
Senior White House aide Valerie Jarrett said Obama, who is
trying to rescue the U.S. economy from recession and fight the
financial crisis on a variety of fronts, hopes to see "new
rules of the road" for the credit card industry.
"He looks forward to having an open and productive
conversation ... with the representatives of the credit card
industry about the impact of the current crisis on consumers,"
Executives from Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), American
Express Co (AXP.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Wells Fargo & Co
(WFC.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Capital One Financial
Corp (COF.N), Visa Inc (V.N) and MasterCard Inc (MA.N) will be
among those due to visit the White House.
The meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT), comes a
day after a House of Representatives bill to curb credit card
fees and limit penalties cleared a key panel.
The legislation -- dubbed the Credit Cardholders' Bill of
Rights -- would codify into law restrictions on deceptive
practices issued by the Federal Reserve in December.
The legislation would stop credit card issuers from
imposing arbitrary interest rate increases and penalties, while
halting certain billing practices. A separate version of the
bill is under review in the Senate.
The differences will need to be reconciled for the bill to
become law and White House aides are working with members of
both chambers to try to arrive at a consensus.
TIGHTENING THE RULES
Lawmakers have expressed outrage that many of the
card-issuing banks are the same ones that have received
government bailout money, paid for by the U.S. taxpayers who
use the cards and are being saddled with the high fees.
Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers last weekend
accused the companies of having encouraged Americans to become
"addicted" to credit after luring them with aggressive
marketing campaigns and deceptive interest-rate terms.
The effort to tighten the rules on those firms is part of a
broader regulatory reform agenda Obama is pursuing after taking
office in January amid the worst economic crisis in decades.
Obama campaigned on the credit card issue last year.
Banks say the tighter rules for card issuers would hurt fee
income at a time when they are trying to climb out of a
financial hole created by the collapse of the housing boom.
The American Bankers Association trade group, which
represents the biggest credit card issuers, said it is
concerned the House bill could reduce the availability of
consumer credit and make it more expensive.
As U.S. job losses mount, credit card defaults are running
at record highs. Lenders are seeking to protect themselves by
tightening credit limits and closing accounts -- actions that
are angering lawmakers and consumers.
A White House official said the meeting with the credit
card executives was arranged after some industry
representatives approached Obama's aides to request a
"As part of our ongoing outreach to the business community,
we decided to expand the group to make the meeting as
productive as possible," the White House official said.
While Obama wants to see stricter rules, he "recognizes
that credit cards are a critical source of liquidity and can be
a last line of credit during hard economic times," the official
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)