A Plan of Action

By Camden R. Fine, President and CEO of ICBA

As I’ve said and written before, relieving the regulatory tsunami drowning community banks is Job No. 1 for ICBA. Quite simply, no priority is more urgent for ICBA than reversing the rising tide of costly, unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.

So with all of its energy and resources, ICBA is addressing this issue every day, both on the regulatory front lines and on Capitol Hill. No issue can have a more positive influence on the daily operations of community banks—and on achieving a full economic recovery for Main Street and all of America—than cutting back regulatory overkill. All of you know this all too well, firsthand.

Central to attaining long-term results is continuing the historic momentum we’ve started (through several recent legislative acts and regulatory agency actions) to establish an equitably tiered regulatory framework. Policymakers of every stripe agree that the volume, cost and complexity of today’s regulations disproportionately weigh on community banks. In statutes and in regulations, lawmakers and federal agencies are recognizing the inherent differences between the business models, risk profiles and practices of Main Street community banks and those of Wall Street mega-financial institutions.

While a sensibly proportional regulatory system is a critically important long-term solution, it’s also an evolutionary process that will take time to fully achieve. Unfortunately, community banks—and our economy—need relief now. Fortunately, there are many direct, straightforward and quickly achievable measures Congress can enact that can help immediately.

That’s why ICBA has introduced the Plan for Prosperity, a flexible legislative platform of targeted regulatory relief priorities for community banks and thrifts for the 113th Congress.

Developed with input from ICBA members, the Plan for Prosperity contains a set of separate bills, each addressing a specific, real-world problem or need. Listing a few examples, the plan includes bills or legislative provisions that would exempt community banks from mortgage-lending reforms; end repetitive customer privacy notices; relieve banks from costly and redundant Sarbanes-Oxley auditing expenses; allow most community banks to avoid reporting business loan data; exempt community banks from proposed municipal advisor regulations; and apply new Securities and Exchange Commission deregistration thresholds to thrifts. Some provisions address more general but still important needs, such as modifying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s too-powerful single-director structure, and creating an Assistant Secretary for Community Financial Institutions position within the Treasury Department.

All told, the Plan for Prosperity contains a dozen bills. But, importantly, the plan is designed as a living, evolving agenda. More bills or provisions can and will likely be added to it. But the plan’s main purpose is to advance through Congress as many immediately meaningful measures for community banks as possible—as quickly as possible—either bundled together or separately as opportunity allows.

This month, nearly 1,000 of your fellow community bankers will be participating in ICBA’s Washington Policy Summit. These bankers will promote and explain the Plan for Prosperity and its provisions to their members of Congress and top policymakers in the Administration and regulatory agencies. But we need your support and help, too.

So please take the time to learn more about it. Ask questions and tell us your ideas. This is your action plan. Together, let’s use it to achieve the strongest revitalizing regulatory relief possible, one that your community bank—and its customers and local economy—needs and deserves. alt

Reach Camden R. Fine at cam.fine@icba.org