Finer Points Blog

    Beware Those Unintended Consequences

    Jun 21, 2010
    With a financial system as sophisticated, complicated and interconnected as ours, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there are no easy fixes.  We didn’t need anyone to tell us that the interchange amendment was a bad idea.  We’ve opposed it since it first surfaced.  Even with a well-intentioned exemption for banks with less than $10 billion in assets, the amendment will harm community banks and our customers, stifle competition, and lead us down the thorny path of government price fixing and controls.  I think everyone agrees there is no place for that in a free market society. 

    As the unintended consequences of the interchange amendment begin to sink in across the country, suddenly there’s an upsurge of groups—from the hip to the hapless, from the overleveraged to the underbanked, both public and private—that are joining ICBA in opposition to the interchange amendment.  State treasurers and state benefits administrators from 15 states are telling Congress that the amendment would undermine the government’s push to go paperless by providing benefits through the use of debit or prepaid cards.

    “Quite simply, the financial institutions that issue these prepaid debit cards do so at little or no cost to states because they are able to rely on interchange to cover their costs,” 10 state treasurers wrote in a letter to Congress.  “If the Durbin amendment becomes law, this will no longer be the case and we are seriously concerned about the viability of these programs.  Even if these programs continue, we are concerned that financial institutions will be forced to raise fees on cardholders or States to recoup lost revenue.”

    Russell Simmons, hip hop promoter and co-founder of Def Jam, has told Congress the amendment would eliminate a system that benefits the poor.  And now there’s a white paper by a George Mason professor that points out the problems of government interventions. 

    The chorus grows louder every day, and what that chorus is saying is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

     (An even better way to advise your representative is through our Interchange Amendment Action Alert)

    The Devil is in the Details

    Jun 07, 2010
    Congress is working to wrap up the financial regulatory reform bill in the next few weeks. 

    Community bankers know better than anyone how important it is to make sure that we get the details right so that the final bill isn’t bedeviled by contradictions, overregulation and unintended consequences. 

    There are critical sections in both the House and Senate versions that must be resolved in conference if we are to have genuinely meaningful reform.

    Specifically, ICBA is focused on these legislative priorities (among others):

    • Treating trust-preferred securities as Tier 1 capital,
    • Halting any changes to the current interchange system,
    • Expanding the community bank exemptions to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
    • Preserving the ability of states to establish lending limits for state-chartered community banks,
    • Allowing new federal thrift charters,
    • Permitting the CFPB to regulate payday lenders and other nonbank financial firms,
    • Clarifying the definition of swap dealers in derivatives trading.
    ICBA has a good chance of prevailing on these issues. ICBA has already won significant concessions for community banks in the legislation that many thought were impossible –increasing the FDIC assessment base to level the playing field and save community banks $4.5 billion over three years; preserving the Federal Reserve's authority to examine state-chartered community banks and small bank holding companies; and exempting safe residential mortgage loans from the 5-percent risk-retention requirement. So don’t bet against us.

    The end-game is to enact a good, balanced regulatory reform bill that fixes what broke while not hurting the community banking industry. To do that we need your help. Contact your representatives  – we have made it easy for you to take action; please do take action today.  

    Tell us your thoughts.

    High Roads and Low Roads

    May 24, 2010
    There is no doubt that passions are running high in regard to the financial reform debate.  There are many sides engaged in this generational issue.  And all sides hold firm to their beliefs as to which course is the right course.  Those beliefs reflect the values of those members that each group represents.  ICBA represents ONLY community banks.  Therefore, all our focus is on the best interests of community banks.  ICBA policy and advocacy objectives are developed exclusively by thousands of community bankers nationwide through their community banker leadership.  ICBA staff carries out their polices.

    As passions reach a boiling point in this reform debate, it is tempting for people or groups to take the low road to achieve their objectives.  ICBA feels the passion to represent our members’ interests no less than any other person or group.  However, we will do so with integrity and honor.  ICBA will advocate its objectives with facts and lessons learned from the past and will not stoop to denigrate or point fingers at others simply because our objectives may not concur with theirs.  We will give every issue important to community banks our very best effort, and if we lose on an issue, then we will lose straight up.  And when we achieve an objective, we will celebrate with our members.

    So during the course of this debate, there will be those who take the high road, and those who take the low road.  At ICBA we believe in high roads and upholding the best values of our member community banks.  After all, ICBA exclusively represents the best segment of the financial services industry—the men and women of Main Street and rural America.  And we will never retreat or shrink from our responsibilities, nor shirk our duty to give our very best to those we represent each and every day.

    Naked What?—Cover your Eyes

    May 19, 2010
    As if bankers and politicians don’t have enough to worry about when it comes to public opinion and financial reform, the Senate has been debating whether or not to outlaw naked credit default swaps. (Sounds pornographic doesn’t it? I can assure you it is anything but.)  Ask consumers if they care and they’ll say “naked what?” But tell them it has something to do with Wall Street firms and they will say they don’t want any more funny business from the mega Wall Street banks. 

    The good news for community banks is that odds are we will come out of this wild ride of a debate on regulatory reform with our reputations intact—and, in fact, enhanced.  Here’s a little of what they’re saying about us on both sides of the aisle.

    “I am doing my best to make sure that we don’t increase the burden on the small guys who are already highly regulated and who didn’t cause this crisis in the first place. Rather, this is about leveling the playing field for the small community banks by making sure that big banks and other non-bank financial institutions can’t continue to game the system.” Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.)

    “The reason the community banks have a very important role to play is that they're close enough to the ground that they can evaluate the opportunities much more effectively than often a large, distant bank can. So they're ready to make loans that a big bank might never even consider. And so community banks are essential to our small businesses.” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

    Social Agenda???

    May 12, 2010
    “Once Congress changes the base to an asset test, what is to stop them from thinking up other kinds of incentives that meet whatever social agenda they might have?" [emphasis added]

              James Chessen, ABA chief economist, protesting a move to base deposit insurance rates on assets instead of domestic deposits (May 10, 2010 American Banker)

    Since when did community banks become a “social agenda”?  Oh, you mean a “social agenda” like using taxpayer dollars and special assessments levied against community banks to bail out failed mega banks and their investors and managers, while allowing community banks, their investors and their managers to drop like flies?  It seems to me that maintaining the too-big-to-fail mega banks is the “social agenda” here, not helping the “too-small-to-save” community banks!

    Your thoughts?

    Focused

    May 10, 2010
    Focus!  The singular mission of ICBA is to enhance and protect the community bank charter—period.  Never was the benefit of that focus more apparent than last Thursday when the Senate voted on the Tester/Hutchison amendment that will bring fairness to FDIC assessments.  ICBA was the ONLY national financial trade association to publicly endorse and vigorously work for passage of the amendment. 

    As a result of an unheard of 98-0 vote in the Senate, more than 7,800 mostly community banks will save $4.5 billion over the next three years.  That is a DIRECT benefit to the bottom line.

    No one disputes that without ICBA the Tester/Hutchison amendment would not have happened.  In fact, last fall I was bluntly told by another association executive that getting Congress to change the FDIC assessment formula to benefit community banks had no chance—it would never happen.

    Well, what many in Washington and elsewhere fail to grasp is the singular focus of ICBA.  We are all about promoting the franchise value and the worth of community banks to local markets.  As the public press has documented well, the Wall Street mega firms and their legions of lobbyists and multiple trade groups can and do take care of themselves. 

    Who takes care of the community banks in Washington, D.C.?  Who is their voice?  Last week the nation witnessed who takes care of community bank interests—the Independent Community Bankers of America—ICBA!  And we are proud to represent you!

    I welcome your views on this or any of my other posts.

    Yes, But is it Right?

    May 03, 2010
    “The problem for Tourre—and Wall Street—is that they're so intent on proving that what they did was legal that they can't see that what they did was wrong.”

     “With Financial Reform for Wall Street, Fair is Fair,” Washington Post (05/02/10)

    The quote above perfectly captures why ICBA is fighting so hard for community banks in this generational fight over financial reform.  ICBA is fighting for what is RIGHT.  While others fight to protect their turf or to keep their special privileges (such as too-big-to-fail), ICBA fights for basic fairness for community banks as Ezra Klein puts so well in his May 2 column.  And we fight for Main Street customers nationwide.

    The financial services system in this country lost its way over the past 30 years.  Real people got hurt.  Community banks got hurt.  The system became tilted against Main Street community banks in favor of Wall Street size and privilege.  The Washington Post article captures in a nutshell what we are fighting for—FAIRNESS in our financial services system.  Yet, we are being relentlessly attacked and misrepresented for our stand. BUT WE WON'T BE COWEDWe will continue to fight for basic balance and fairness for community banks and their rightful place in the financial services system.  Community banks ARE important; community banks DO count!  Community banks are good stewards of their depositors’ money and do their best to serve the needs of their customers, because they live, work and worship in those same communities.

    So please read this article, ladies and gentlemen, and come to understand where ICBA and those we represent are coming from.  We don't come from Wall Street.  We don't represent Wall Street.  We don’t take a dime in dues from Wall Street mega firms.  We represent those men and women and their banks that serve local markets, small towns and cities and the rural areas of this nation.  And we don't advocate or stand for something simply because it is legal—we fight for basic principles of fairness, access and equal voice because it is right!

    .0 I am so very proud of our thousands of community bank members nationwide and how they have endured not only this crisis, but the inequities of the past 30 years.

    Cam

    Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?

    Apr 28, 2010
    The light you see at the end of the tunnel may or may not be a train. We will know shortly.

    Last evening Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) began circulating a draft alternative proposal to S. 3217, the financial-reform bill introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) earlier this spring.  The draft alternative is not in legislative language but rather a title-by-title narrative of Sen. Shelby’s (and presumably other Republicans’) vision of financial reform. 

    Sen. Shelby’s draft alternative introduces some good ideas and concepts dealing with resolution authority, small-business exemptions from Sarbanes-Oxley and transparency that—if included in a final bill—ICBA could support in any financial-reform legislation.  The draft alternative also raises some concerns about Federal Reserve independence and the overarching power of the Treasury secretary.

    More importantly, however, Sen. Shelby’s draft proposal could signal progress in negotiations between Sens. Shelby and Dodd.  The fact that concrete alternatives are being discussed is a good sign.  ICBA encourages Sens. Dodd and Shelby to continue their negotiations to a successful conclusion so that the Senate might act on much-needed Wall Street reform.

    Cam

    Bailouts, big lies and moral bankruptcy

    Apr 22, 2010
    Evidently we’re not the only ones who are growing dizzy from all the spinning Wall Street is doing as it desperately tries to trick the American public into killing a reg reform bill that would finally rein in the Wall Street mega firms. 

    This is must reading for anyone who seeks the truth. The Truth is Out There.

    Wall Street banks and the big lie

    By Mark Mellman - 04/20/10 07:43 PM ET – The Hill.com

    Singing Out of the Wall Street Hymnal

    Apr 19, 2010
    Just 20 banks of 8,000 now control over three quarters of our nation's assets and over 60 percent of its deposits.  Community banks are at a 0.40 to 0.60 basis-point disadvantage to their mega bank brothers when it comes to the costs of regulatory compliance—and community bankers scratch their heads and wonder how all of this happened.

    Well, look no further than Wall Street and its army of Washington, D.C. lobbyists and trade groups.  Sadly, many community banks blindly follow the "we must all speak as an industry” siren song written by the best public relations people Wall Street can buy. 

    And when the song has been sung to Wall Street’s satisfaction and this regulatory reform bill is finished, community banks will again find themselves on the short end of the stick, laboring under staggering regulatory burdens, scrounging for capital, struggling with narrowing margins and facing more bailouts of Wall Street titans.  And all the while, the “shadow” banking industry will skate, and Wall Street will add however many hundreds of staff are needed to comply with new regulatory burdens imposed by the existing agencies.  They will continue to pay themselves ever greater bonuses based on their burgeoning profits, while community banks are assessed higher and higher premiums to pay for Wall Street’s sins.

    Such is the world as it is and as it will be without financial reform of Wall Street.  I hope that those community banks that are singing out of the Wall Street hymnal stop in time to save themselves.

    At ICBA, we represent Main Street, not Wall Street and we want a bill to stop the reckless practices of Wall Street that got us into this mess from ever happening again.

    The Status Quo—Great for Wall Street, Fatal to Main Street

    Apr 15, 2010
    Today two forces are facing off over financial reform—those who want real reform of Wall Street's greed and damaging practices and those who want to keep the status quo. 

    Community bankers want real reform because the status quo has allowed only five institutions to control more than half of the nation's deposits. 

    The status quo brought us skyrocketing and special FDIC assessments, dumped commercial real estate and the GSE preferred stock debacle.

    The status quo has meant massive and unprecedented government support for Wall Street mega firms.  And on Main Street, where a fraction of that largesse could have saved hundreds of community banks, the status quo has brought us nothing but pain and regulatory enforcement orders—even though the vast majority of community banks are well-managed institutions.

    Now Wall Street and their allies in Washington are trying to manipulate community bankers into going against their best self-interests by opposing the only legislation that will put an end to Wall Street’s outrageous advantages. 

    Community bankers cannot afford to stand by silently. If no financial reform bill passes, community bankers will continue to see their franchise values erode, Wall Street’s profits rise and the mega firms get even bigger and more bulletproof.  Upholding the status quo guarantees that Wall Street will only consume what’s left of Main Street when the next financial crisis comes. 

    Don't let that happen. Fight for equal treatment. Fight to end the too-big-to-fail policies that created the crisis.

    We must have financial reform, and we must have it now. Tell your member of Congress.

    The Voices of Main Street

    Apr 08, 2010
     “Only connect,” the novelist E.M. Forster urged people, almost a century ago. And nowhere are connections more important than here in Washington. Thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, thousands of people can gather online in a matter of minutes to voice their opinions. It’s democracy 24/7 and Congress and the administration are listening.

    For the past two years, ICBA and our member community banks have been a powerful force in the discussions about regulatory reform, but we now can become even stronger if we can engage our customers as advocates on those issues that affect the well-being of all of us on Main Street. 

    Earlier this week we launched the “My Community, My Bank” Facebook fan page. It’s the next phase of our campaign to educate policymakers and the public about the negative consequences associated with too-big-to-fail and the need to rein in the Wall Street mega firms that wreaked financial havoc. 

    The whole ripple effect is remarkable.  In just a few days, we’ve gained nearly 600 fans.

    If you haven't already, I’m hoping you will spread the word to your customers, neighbors and friends.  The voices of Main Street, theirs and ours, are too strong to silence and too important to ignore.  

    To view our Facebook fan page, visit  https://www.facebook.com/icbaorg/

    The Elephant in the Room

    Mar 31, 2010
    “When elephants stampede; it is the grass that gets trampled.”
                                                                                             Thai Army
    proverb


    Think of the elephants as the mega Wall Street financial firms. Think of the grass as the nation’s Main Street community banks.

    One of several debates raging in Washington between Main Street and Wall Street involves the "prefunding" of a reserve by “too-big-to-fail” firms (sometimes called systemically dangerous firms) to be used to resolve their own failures the next time our nation experiences a financial meltdown.

    The prefunded resolution reserve fund is sometimes referred to by Washington pundits as the “pre-arranged funeral plan.” The idea is that those Wall Street mega firms that have been identified as systemically dangerous would pay into a fund dedicated to resolving and unwinding those firms should they become financially insolvent, thus sparing the taxpayers and community banks from having to bail out these mega firms after they are already dead—as we have all just experienced. It is ICBA’s position that managers and investors at the mega firms who made terrible decisions or got too greedy should not profit and be propped up by the taxpayers and the Main Street community banks of this nation ever again. In the future, when these Wall Street Cyclopes fail they should be forced to use their own money to resolve their failures.

    Wall Street and the financial trade groups that represent them in Washington argue that if a prefunded reserve is set up, it will “out” these firms and identify them as being “too big to fail” thus institutionalizing a “too-big-to-fail” policy. Wall Street’s solution is that systemically risky firms should be required to “post-fund” a resolution reserve to take care of mega financial firm failures. In other words, the systemically dangerous firms would be required to post the money after they become insolvent.

    ICBA argues that creating a resolution fund after the mega bank has already failed is like purchasing life insurance for someone who is already dead! Who pays for the life insurance policy if the insured is already dead before the policy is purchased? I think we all know who will pay.

    Gertrude Stein famously said, "A rose is a rose is a rose." And Shakespeare said, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Only I can assure you that these mega financial failures don’t smell like roses to the taxpayers and community banks.) At ICBA we believe that the failure of a $2.5 trillion bank will not smell nearly as bad if the money to resolve the failure comes from the failed bank itself rather than picking the pockets of the taxpayers and community banks. We all know who the elephants are. So, let’s stop pretending that there are no elephants in the room.

    Cam Fine Convention Speech 2010

    Mar 24, 2010

    A Central Bank With No Center? A Lesson From the Falcon and the Falconer

    Mar 14, 2010
    A central bank without a central role in the American banking and financial sector? Crazy, right? Absurd, you say? Not so fast—it could easily happen.

    The U.S. Senate is proposing just such a plan. If the Senate proposal for financial reform is enacted without changes, one key feature will be that the central bank of the United States, otherwise known as the Federal Reserve, will be stripped of its supervisory authority over all financial institutions of less than $50 billion.

    What? Can it be that our policymakers would blind our central bank to the thousands of financial institutions on Main Street America? Are we to have a central bank with no "center"? Will the central bank become misshapen by its sole focus on Wall Street? Can the central bank's "center" hold or will it fall apart like the center in William Butler Yeats’ famous poem "The Second Coming,"

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    The Federal Reserve is our financial system's falconer, and the district banks, collectively, are the falcon—ever watchful, circling the regions of this nation. If the Federal Reserve is truncated in its mission and the district banks lose their ability to look into nearly 8,000 Main Streets across America, can the financial center truly hold? Or will “things fall apart" and, with apologies to Mr. Yeats, mere financial anarchy be loosed upon the United States as the falcon circles further and further from the center, unable to hear the falconer? And as the pull from Wall Street distorts the center, the falconer will no longer hear the falcon, and what is a unique financial balance between Main Street and Wall Street will be lost.

    Mr. Lockhart, Old Stories and Shakespeare

    Mar 11, 2010
    After I read the transcript and viewed the video clip of Mr. Lockhart's remarks on CNBC’s "Squawk Box" in which he said, and I quote: "What we need is about 50 strong regional banks in this country, not 8,000 small ones," I was reminded of an old story that I am sure many of you have heard.

    A man walks up to the attractive, well-dressed lady at the high-society ball and says, "Would you sleep with me for $1 million?" The lady blushes, hesitates and says quietly, "Well, for $1 million, yes, I would." The man beams and says, “Then would you sleep with me for $20?" The lady turns crimson and slaps the man hard and blurts out, "Certainly not. What do you think I am?" The man smiles and says, "Lady, we have established what you are; we are just haggling over price."

    That story crossed my mind when I heard Mr. Lockhart speak. Of course we all know Mr. James Lockhart, the former Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Days before the government seizure of the housing GSEs, Mr. Lockhart assured the community banks that the GSEs were adequately capitalized and that the markets should not be concerned about their preferred-stock investments. After the GSEs were seized on a Sunday, in a move that shocked the financial world, Mr. Lockhart expressed no regrets that the actions of Treasury and his agency wiped out billions of dollars in community bank equity and directly caused the failure of several community banks—wiping out families and investors and damaging entire communities. Now we see why.  Mr. Lockhart apparently has no use for 8,000 community banks and believes a 50-bank system would be far superior. Superior for whom, Mr. Lockhart?

    Yes, this is the same Mr. Lockhart who spoke at our annual gathering of community banker leaders. And he spoke in glowing terms about how vital community banks were to our nation’s financial and economic infrastructure. Now, Mr. Lockhart reveals himself— Shakespeare called it “mouth honor.” Honor given in words, but not felt. Mr. Lockhart is nothing more than an elite opportunist. Unfortunately, Washington seems to attract such people, and then they move on to their cushy Wall Street jobs.

    Newsflash for Mr. Lockhart—ICBA and community banks are not for sale at any price, because we know the true meaning of integrity, honesty and loyalty. Long after Lockhart is gone, community banks will endure because community banks are the very embodiment of entrepreneurial spirit in the nation. They are expressions of the self reliance that is engrained in our culture. Every community bank president, board member and customer should be enraged at Mr. Lockhart's public remarks. 

    See for yourself. Click here to watch Mr. Lockhart’s appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.

    Friday Night Lights Out

    Mar 09, 2010
    Last Friday night, the lights went out for four “too-small-to-save” banks. They faced the ultimate in resolution authority. I knew the bank presidents of two of the four banks. They were good people caught in miserable economic circumstances. Not only were their careers and reputations wiped out, their family income and equity, and that of their investors, were also wiped out. The 26 banks that have failed this year faced REAL "resolution authority." They were totally leveled—in the same way the Roman military would raze the entire city-state of an enemy—total devastation, nothing left.

    In contrast, we have the Wall Street mega banks and financial firms—you know those firms that received hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars so they would not fail as the result of the greed, mistakes and massive miscalculations of their managers and investors.

    There was no Friday night “lights out” for Citibank, Bank of America or any of the 19 other reckless Wall Street mega firms that caused our nation to slip into the heart of financial darkness. In fact, far from having their managers and investors wiped out or even chastened, Wall Street has prospered as the result of taxpayer largesse, and the "too big to fail" have gotten even bigger and harder to fail.

    Now come some well-meaning members of Congress who want to pass laws to make right a massive injustice—the injustice of good community banks being wiped out, and towns being shattered, while those firms that caused this financial catastrophe go skipping down the financial path—actually getting richer—WITH YOUR MONEY!! But these well-meaning members of Congress are having a very difficult time enacting real, meaningful resolution reform for the "too big to fail."

    Why can't Congress fix "too big to fail," you ask? Because the massive Wall Street lobbying machines are convincing members of Congress that trying to impose a strict resolution authority (the kind community banks face every Friday night) can't be done on mega firms. They are too big and too complex, they protest. The Wall Street lobbying firms say Congress is too shallow to fathom the damage that could be done to mega financial firms if they are subjected to community-bank-like resolution authority. They throw up the specter of Lehman Brothers and say, "Do you want another Lehman?"

    It sounds frightening until you peel back the mask of deception. When I hear the Wall Street lobbyists saying these things I want to retort: "Oh, you mean if your mega financial firm is subjected to a similar Friday night resolution that nearly 8,000 other banks in America are subject to, the people of this nation will suffer as a result? As if they did not suffer during the past three years keeping your failed firms open? As if millions of Americans have not been grievously hurt by the calamity your firms caused and will cause again if we just let Wall Street firms grow ever larger and too big to fail?”

    Perhaps the "resolution" of a Wall Street financial firm will cause our nation to suffer financially, but at least we will all be in the same financial ship—the taxpayers, the failed managers and the reckless investors. At least the only losers won't be the American taxpayer, as we watch the Wall Street managers and investors prosper with OUR money.

    Wall Street financial firms should face resolution authority in the same way that America's 8,000 other banks must face it every Friday night.

    Who's on First?

    Mar 02, 2010
    In just a 12-hour period on Monday, March 1, at least four proposals for where to house the consumer-protection function of the larger financial-reform bill were floated on Capitol Hill. E-mails were flying back and forth, and the most robust industry in Washington—the rumor mill—was in full gear. The second largest industry in Washington—the selective leak—was also fully engaged. What this all adds up to is reminiscent of the classic Abbot and Costello skit “Who’s on First?” As you will recall, Who is on first; What is on second; and I Don’t Know is on third.

    Third base is very much the center of attention because as things stand this Tuesday morning “I Don’t Know” is firmly in control of the game. How the Consumer Financial Protection Agency plays out will be one of the most fascinating games to watch in years. Powerful senators are on at least five sides of a three-sided question. If this weren’t so critically important to the future health of community bank franchises, it would be time to break out the hotdogs and beer and watch it all unfold.

    However, this is no time to be a spectator. This is a franchise issue, and ICBA is working feverishly to ensure that community banks are not put at a disadvantage regardless of how the ball game ends. Our goal is to minimize the consumer-regulatory burden on community banks in whatever way we can. We will be swinging hard to achieve that goal and will not rest until the final out.

    Setting the Tone in Washington

    Feb 25, 2010
    For decades Wall Street mega firms and their Washington, D.C. trade group allies have set the financial policy tone in the nation’s capitol. But beginning in early 2008, the 8,000 community banks of this nation and their national trade group ICBA sent Wall Street and America a message: This ICBA will NOT yield to Wall Street – not this time. Not on our watch.

    We will touch every community bank in the country and ask them to unite and fight for the rich financial diversity of this nation. Community bankers everywhere are standing up and telling Washington, D.C. policy makers that this is OUR financial system too. And we will fight to preserve our place in it.

    Decades of letting Wall Street set the policy tone in Washington, D.C. are over because ICBA, our state community banking associations and community banks nationwide will never again allow themselves to be treated as second class citizens in the financial world.

    Standing Like a Rock

    Feb 18, 2010
    Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

    ICBA has long had the reputation of standing on principle while others swim with the current. It is a Jeffersonian ideal of which we are proud.

    There are some folks who want to cling to the status quo just like a dog that gets a great bone and doesn’t want to let it go. Those intent on opposing financial reform in any form for any reason are willing to ignore several landmark community bank successes in order to howl over a single shinbone. What they really want is to hold on to the status quo—to maintain the current advantages given to megabanks and nonbank financial firms. And we’ve all seen too clearly where the status quo has led us.

    But what really gets me worked up is that these “status quo” seekers aren’t telling the whole story. Any landmark financial reform legislation that passes Congress will be huge, complex and, ultimately, imperfect to one degree or another. Does ICBA think that the House financial-regulatory-reform bill (H.R. 4173) is a perfect bill? No, we don’t—and we never did. H.R. 4173 will not be the final financial reform bill that is eventually signed into law, and everyone in Washington knows that and has known that for months.

    So ICBA is fighting to keep the considerable gains we earned in the House bill while blocking provisions in any final reform bill that would be burdensome or harmful to community banks.

    Gutierrez—H.R. 2897

    Remember H.R. 2897, better known as the Gutierrez bill? H.R. 2897, formally titled “The Bank Accountability and Risk Assessment Act of 2009,” was introduced in the House last spring. It was a pure community bank-friendly bill that would bring fairness and parity to the FDIC assessment system for more than 99 percent of the nation’s community banks by shifting hundreds of millions of dollars in FDIC assessment fees off of community banks.

    ICBA worked closely with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the bill’s principal sponsor.  ICBA was the ONLY national trade association to embrace H.R. 2897. All other national (and some state) financial trade groups either worked hard against it or sat mute (quietly cautioning Congress not to embrace it). In fact, those representing megabanks said Gutierrez was dead and would go nowhere.

    Well, guess what. Good old H.R. 2897 was rolled into H.R. 4173, along with eight other stand-alone bills, to become part of the financial-reform bill that the House passed in December. (H.R. 4173 was created as an omnibus bill just days before the final vote as a way to pass several stand-alone bills simultaneously.) So H.R. 2897 lives on with several very powerful pro-community bank provisions that will save or earn thousands of community banks bottom-line dollars.

    And as that bill reminds us, this once-in-a-generation financial-reform legislation is not and will not be about any one single issue, and it does not consist of one piece or provision. It’s a massive bill with many components.

    ICBA has not endorsed any final financial reform bill. But remember that ICBA is the only national voice in Washington fighting exclusively for community banks. That’s important.