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U.S. House advances bills to address Archegos, GameStop turmoil

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in front of displayed GameStop logo
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By Pete Schroeder and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wealthy families that set up investment funds known as "family offices" to manage their personal wealth would face stricter oversight from U.S. regulators under a bill advanced by a U.S. congressional panel late on Thursday.

The bill was among 11 that lawmakers hope will address failings highlighted by March's meltdown of family office Archegos Capital which led to billions of dollars in losses for some banks and January's GameStop saga.

Whether they pass or not, the bills considered by the House Financial Services Committee would increase the pressure on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to take swift action, analysts said.

The legislation targets family offices with more than $750 million in assets, retail trading practices and short selling.

The bills also target January's GameStop meme stock saga during which retail investors trading on low-cost brokers like Robinhood Markets Inc banded together to burn hedge funds that had bet against the retailer.

One bill directs the SEC to study restricting "payment for order flow" whereby brokers route orders to wholesale market makers in return for a fee. Critics say the practice creates conflicts of interest that can push up prices for retail investors.

Any changes to the model could hurt Robinhood, which had a miserable stock market debut on Thursday, partly due to investor worries over regulatory risks.

Another bill directs the SEC to require investors to disclose their positions monthly instead of quarterly, and to include certain derivatives and "short" bets that stocks will fall.

Several industry insiders said Wall Street will fight the changes.

Thomas Handler, a partner at law firm Handler Thayer which has over 300 family offices as clients, said the proposal for family offices to register with the SEC would become an "intrusion of privacy."

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder and Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Michelle Price and Howard Goller)