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The Securities and Exchange Commission says until it gets more money from Congress, it has to delay creating a new whistleblower office mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

In a brief, two-sentence notice on the SEC website, the agency said it was putting on hold the whistleblower office – plus the new offices of credit ratings, investor advocate, municipal securities, and women and minority inclusion – because of “budget uncertainty.” All the offices are mandated by the reform law, which also set specific deadlines for the SEC to get them launched.

A few weeks ago, the SEC told Congress that it would have to create about 800 new jobs to carry out all the requirements of the Dodd-Frank law. Lawmakers have not yet approved an SEC budget for fiscal 2011, which began on Oct. 1. And when the new Congress begins work next month, the House Appropriations Committee will be led by Republicans, who generally take a dim view of reforms included in the financial regulation law.

The SEC issued a proposal last month that would create new whistleblower protections and encourage reports of abuse by offering a bounty on awards over $1 million. The agency is accepting public comments on its plan until Dec. 17. To fund payments to whistleblowers, the SEC already has set aside $452 million from past civil settlements in enforcement cases and invested the money in Treasury bills until it is needed.

Alternative to payday lenders?

Nine banks have volunteered for an experiment offering low-cost bank accounts to low-income consumers to pay bills and save money, says Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The year-long experiment aims to offer checkless accounts that encourage automatic savings – and do not carry any overdraft fees.

The FDIC recently wrapped up another pilot program in which selected banks offered small-dollar loans to consumers who would otherwise be forced to see costly payday loans. “One important lesson from the mortgage crisis is that selling consumer products that do not serve them well ends up hurting both consumers and banks, and weakening public confidence in the financial system as a whole,” Bair said in a speech at the Consumer Federation of America’s annual financial services conference.

Under the Dodd-Frank law, payday lenders will be regulated by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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