FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ICBA Announces 2006 Policy Priorities
Support Community Growth, Enhance Choice, Promote Financial Diversity
Washington, D.C. (March 8, 2006)—The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) today announced its top legislative and regulatory priorities for the coming year. ICBA made its announcement at its National Convention and Techworld, one of the largest and most vital banking industry events of its kind in the nation.
"Community banks are the economic foundation of communities across the country," said Terry J. Jorde, incoming ICBA chairman, and president and CEO of CountryBank USA in Cando, N.D. "The policy resolutions our members adopted this week promote and build a stronger economy for those communities and for the entire country."
ICBA's top priorities for 2006 are:
- "Community Banks Serving Their Communities First Act," Reducing Regulatory Burden. ICBA asks Congress to enact comprehensive regulatory relief for community banks and strongly supports the ICBA-initiated Communities First Act which provides badly needed regulatory burden and tax relief for community banks, their customers and their communities. ICBA strongly urges Congress and bank regulators to continue to build a tiered regulatory and supervisory system that recognizes the differences between community banks and larger, more complex institutions.
- The ILC Threat to the Separation of Banking and Commerce. ICBA strongly supports our nation's long-standing policy prohibiting affiliations or combinations between banks and commercial firms (such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.), a policy that has served our nation well and was reaffirmed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The best way to accomplish this is by closing the industrial loan company (ILC) loophole that permits commercial firms to own ILCs and bringing ILCs under the Bank Holding Company Act.
- Unfair Credit Union Competition. ICBA opposes expanded powers for credit unions, particularly the proposal to raise the cap on "member business loans," so long as credit unions remain exempt from taxation and the Community Reinvestment Act. ICBA supports tax parity between banks and credit unions. There is no good policy argument based on equity or efficiency for maintaining the credit union tax exemption when they compete aggressively against taxpaying community banks and continue to expand beyond their statutory mission of serving people of modest means.
In addition, ICBA supports the right of a financial institution to choose its charter and endorses the Credit Union Charter Choice Act of 2005, which prohibits the National Credit Union Administration from using inappropriate means to prevent a credit union from converting to a bank or thrift charter.
- Regulation of the Housing GSEs. ICBA supports efforts to improve the regulation of the housing government sponsored enterprises (GSEs): the Federal Home Loan Banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae. Congress must recognize and maintain the unique ownership, capital structure and operational mission of the FHLBanks when it constructs a new agency and clarify that the FHLBank System's mission includes providing support for small farm, small agribusiness and small business financing.
In addition, ICBA opposes artificial limits on the GSEs' portfolios or requirements that the new regulator consider issues beyond safety and soundness when considering the size or makeup of their portfolios. ICBA opposes attempts to draw a "bright line" between permissible and impermissible activities or impose unworkable restrictions on the GSEs' activities.
- Restraining the Farm Credit System. ICBA opposes expanding the powers of Farm Credit System (FCS) institutions to unfairly compete against tax-paying commercial banks. ICBA opposes allowing the FCS to make non-farm loans and other proposals designed to transform FCS lenders into the equivalent of commercial banks while retaining their GSE tax and funding advantages.
- Tax Policy. ICBA supports tax and budget policies that foster economic growth and will work to advance community-bank friendly tax reforms to encourage increased private saving, small business investment and a robust financial service sector.
- Payment System Access and Awareness. ICBA supports competitive, progressive and secure payment systems that offer fair and open access to all community banks regardless of size, operational capability or location to meet the evolving payment needs of their customers. In addition, ICBA supports the Federal Reserve System's dual role as payments regulator and provider of payment services and encourages the Federal Reserve System to take steps to ensure that these roles remain in place.
- Bank Secrecy Act and Enforcement. ICBA supports a risk-based approach to efforts against money laundering and terrorist financing, with a careful balancing of costs and benefits. The federal government and law enforcement agencies should develop a single comprehensive government watch list of terrorists and provide better information to financial institutions in a truly cooperative spirit.
- Corporate Governance. ICBA supports sound corporate governance for all corporations. ICBA's recent Community Bank Survey on the Costs of Complying with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) indicates that many requirements of this law are unnecessarily costly and burdensome for community banks. Small publicly held companies should be exempt from some SOX requirements and from some reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
ICBA strongly supports the work of the SEC Advisory Committee on Smaller Public Companies and its efforts to relieve unnecessary regulatory burden for smaller public companies under securities law. Small non-public banks should be completely exempt from SOX and bank regulators should refrain from forcing them to comply with any of the provisions of that law.