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In this Issue...
-       Heavy Hitters Lining Up Against Wal-Mart
-       Deposit Insurance Reform Becomes Law
-       Courage of Mississippi River Bank’s Directors in Aftermath of Katrina is Recognized
-       New FY 2007 Budget to Preserve Tax Relief
-       Final Guidance Issued on Auditor Liability
-       Briefly …
-       Dueling Words Between OCC and Realtors
-       Notable Quotes
-       Educational Opportunities You Don’t Want To Miss!
-       President’s 2007 Budget Proposes Sharp Cuts in Farm Spending
-       More on FCS’s Horizon Project and Recommendations
-       More on USDA’s FY 2007 Budget Proposals
-       House Ag Committee Holds First Farm Bill Hearings
-       Dugan Lays Out Recommendations On Privacy Notices, Data Security
-       CRA Credit Available for All Banks for Hurricane Investments
-       Agencies Issue Exam Guidelines for Gulf Coast Banks
-       FinCEN Alert on Potential Hurricane-Related Fraud
-       Briefly …

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Heavy Hitters Lining Up Against Wal-Mart

Opposition to Wal-Mart's application to charter a Utah industrial loan company picked up significant ballast this week as two powerful national heavyweights joined the fight. 

On Feb. 1, the National Association of Realtors, with more than 1.2 million members nationwide, wrote to new Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke asking him to oppose Wal-Mart's application for federal deposit insurance, saying a Wal-Mart ILC would "establish a dangerous precedent that will inevitably lead to an erosion of the separation of banking and commerce."  NAR President Thomas M. Stevens wrote:  "We see serious consequences for the continued stability and growth of the nation's financial system if the FDIC approves the application.  Accordingly, we ask that, early in your term, you actively oppose approval by the FDIC of deposit insurance for the proposed Wal-Mart ILC."

Two days later, New York Senator and Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a letter to Acting FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg warning that the expansion of ILCs "could create an imbalance in the entire financial services sector."  She continued, "I have consistently opposed attempts by banking interests to enter certain commercial activities, and therefore, I am concerned about recent attempts of wholly commercial entities such as Wal-Mart, to exploit a loophole in this existing prohibition in order to expand their reach into the banking and financial services realm."  Lessening or loosening oversight for ILCs while granting them the same privileges and functions as commercial banks "would be a critical mistake and stand in stark contrast to the fundamental principle of the separation of banking and commerce," Clinton wrote.

ICBA welcomes the NAR and Senator Clinton to this battle to preserve the separation of banking and commerce.

House Leaders Turn Up Heat.  Meanwhile, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said approval of the Wal-Mart application could hasten congressional action.  Frank was quoted in the American Banker as saying there is "strong bipartisan support in Congress to bar commercial companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from owning industrial loan companies."  Frank added:  "It's been decided, I think, among us, that there aren't going to be any more ILCs" owned by commercial firms.  "It's not Wal-Mart specific," Frank said.  "What Wal-Mart did, because they are so prominent, is they surfaced the issue."  Frank and Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH) are authors of an amendment to prevent ILCs owned by commercial firms from getting any new powers.

Last week, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), chairman of the powerful House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee, also quoted in the American Banker, said ILCs should be under the same rules as banks and thrifts.  "If they want to operate a bank, they need to comply with the same rules and have the same degree of regulation that a bank should have," Bachus said.  "There is a lot of unease and concern that they may not have the same regimen and oversight that our banks and thrifts have." 

Keep Up the Pressure.  The opposition to Wal-Mart's application continues to grow.  If you haven't weighed in, please 1) write to the FDIC and the governor of Utah to express your opposition to Wal-Mart's application for deposit insurance and an ILC charter, and 2) also let your members of Congress know how you feel (see www.icba.org for help).  The final remedy could well be congressional action.  Your senators and representatives need to hear from you so they can make the right vote when the time comes.


Deposit Insurance Reform Becomes Law
ICBA Attends White House Bill Signing

ICBA's six-year legislative effort to update and modernize federal deposit insurance came to fruition as President Bush signed Omnibus Budget Reconciliation legislation that includes deposit insurance reform.  ICBA Chairman David Hayes, president and CEO of Security Bank, Dyersburg, Tenn., and ICBA President & CEO Camden Fine, attended the bill signing at the White House.

"ICBA has worked tirelessly as the leading proponent of this reform for the last six years on behalf of community banks, so we are thrilled these efforts have come to fruition," said Hayes. "It's truly an honor to attend this bill signing ceremony, particularly because the changes brought about by this new law will benefit our customers and communities."

"This new law is tremendously important in making FDIC insurance a more stable and fair system for community banks and for consumers," said Fine.  "Thanks to the congressional leadership and our member banks, deposit insurance reform is now a reality."

The new law increases coverage for certain retirement accounts to $250,000 and sets up a permanent system of inflation adjustments, authorizing the FDIC to increase coverage limits every five years.

The reform measure also:

  • creates a range in which the fund's reserve ratio can float rather than using a hard target, a provision that will smooth out premium volatility;
  • provides premium credits to institutions that have built up the fund in past years;
  • returns dividends to financial institutions when the fund exceeds certain levels;
  • institutes a risk-based premium system, and
  • merges the bank and thrift insurance funds into a single Deposit Insurance Fund.

The FDIC must implement the new law by adopting new regulations within 270 days of the bill signing (see related Briefly story regarding effective date of retirement account coverage).


Courage of Mississippi River Bank's Directors in Aftermath of Katrina is Recognized

Executing a disaster plan in the midst of chaos is something bankers pray they will never have to do.  But as Hurricane Katrina took dead aim at Belle Chase, Louisiana, the directors of ICBA member Mississippi River Bank knew they were in for it.  They rose to the challenge in spite of personal hardship, and their efforts have been recognized by Bank Director magazine with its second annual L. William Seidman Courage Award, "presented to a board whose directors, during a time of great adversity, had the courage to do the right thing."  

ICBA congratulates Mississippi River Bank CEO Mike Bush and his directors for receiving this prestigious  award—and for all the hard work and sacrifice that went into earning it.


New FY 2007 Budget to Preserve Tax Relief

President Bush urged Congress in his State of the Union address to make tax cuts enacted in recent years permanent.  Following suit, the new FY 2007 federal budget released February 6th includes making permanent key tax cuts and proposes new enhancements for health and retirement savings accounts.  Notably, the budget would make permanent the reduced rates on capital gains and dividends, the estate tax repeal, and several family-related tax cuts, such as the child tax credit and "marriage penalty" relief.  The budget proposes a one-year extension through 2007 for the alternative minimum tax "patch," which would raise the AMT exemption level to prevent thousands of additional taxpayers from becoming subject to the tax.

While the budget would make permanent most of the tax relief provisions as originally enacted, it proposes to further expand the ICBA-backed section 179 small business immediate expensing that currently allows a $100,000 immediate write-off for qualified property.  The new proposal would increase the write-off from $100,000 to $200,000.

The new budget also calls for ICBA-recommended retirement and lifetime savings accounts that would allow individuals to save up to $5,000 annually in each account on a tax-advantaged basis, similar to IRAs but with reduced restrictions and no cap on income levels.  ICBA also supports the budget's proposed enhancements to health savings accounts (HSAs) that would increase the current HSA savings amount allowed and provide additional tax incentives.

While the budget focuses on making certain tax cuts permanent, Congress is currently wrestling with a $70 billion tax reconciliation package that would only temporarily extend expiring tax relief measures, including the reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends and section 179 expensing.  Fighting for a spot in the final conference report on the tax reconciliation package is an extension of AMT relief included in the Senate-passed bill but not in the House-passed version.


Final Guidance Issued on Auditor Liability

The banking agencies have issued guidance advising banks not to enter agreements that contain unsafe and unsound limitations on external auditor liability.  The guidance—Interagency Advisory on the Unsafe and Unsound Use of Limitation of Liability Provisions in External Audit Engagement Letters—applies to financial statement audits and internal control audits and attestations. 

ICBA expressed support for the guidance when it was proposed last year to ensure that auditors are completely accountable for their work and banks have the ability to pursue claims against them without limitations, particularly for losses or damages due to auditor negligence.  ICBA did raise concerns, however, that community banks might face higher audit fees or find fewer audit firms willing to conduct their audits due to liability limitations.

Unsafe and unsound limitation of liability provisions include those that:  indemnify the auditor against third party claims; hold harmless or release the auditor from liability for claims that might be asserted by the bank, other than claims for punitive damages; or limit the remedies available to the bank, other than punitive damages.

The agencies said auditor liability limitation provisions in engagement letters or alternative dispute resolution agreements may weaken the external auditors' objectivity, impartiality and performance.  They may also reduce the reliability of audits and therefore raise safety and soundness concerns.  The advisory applies to all banks regardless of size, whether publicly held or not, and whether the external audit is required or voluntary.

The advisory applies to audit engagement letters signed on or after February 9, 2006.  Banks are not required to nullify engagement letters executed prior to that date, but are encouraged to seek modifications of multi-year engagement letters signed before February 9.

The advisory is available at www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2006/fil06013.html.


Briefly ...

FDIC Insured Retirement Account Increase Not Yet Effective.  ICBA has received numerous questions from bankers about when the increase to $250,000 in FDIC coverage for certain retirement accounts will take effect.  The new law gives FDIC up to 270 days to write and enact rules to implement this new coverage level.  A final rule could be adopted sooner depending on how quickly the FDIC acts.  Please stay tuned to the WWR and we will let you know when the increase goes into effect.

Conservative Group Files Suit Challenging SOX.   A conservative advocacy group, the Free Enterprise Fund, filed a constitutional challenge to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act this week.  The suit claims the authority under the law to form and operate the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) violates the appointments clause of the Constitution because the PCAOB board members are appointed by the SEC, not the president.  The suit seeks to declare unconstitutional the provisions of SOX that created and empowered the PCAOB and to enjoin PCAOB members from carrying out their duties.  The lawsuit comes as some lawmakers are trying to rally support for legislation that would roll back SOX, just as its two authors—Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH)—are set to retire.


Dueling Words Between OCC and Realtors

Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan and OCC Chief Counsel Julie Williams took pen to paper recently to assure Congress and the National Association of Realtors that recent OCC letter rulings do not open the door for national banks to engage in broad-based real estate development activities or violate the separation of banking and commerce.  The rulings allowed individual national banks to engage in real estate development in connection with bank premises and lending activities.

NAR had written to OCC and the Congress, objecting to the rulings as conflicting with the National Bank Act and OCC regulations and rulings.  "OCC's actions have set in motion a process that will inevitably lead to national banks becoming actively involved in real estate development and brokerage activities," NAR President Thomas Stevens wrote in a 9-page letter outlining the NAR's objections and legal analysis

Not so, said OCC.  "The letters have nothing to do with real estate brokerage," Dugan wrote to lawmakers.  "The Letters deal only with limited situations where holding an interest in real estate has long been recognized as permissible for national banks," Williams wrote to NAR.  Williams' 10-page letter provided OCC's legal analysis supporting the rulings as consistent with law and precedent.


Notable Quotes

"As for deposit insurance reform, this has been a goal of the banking industry for a decade.  It may not be sexy, but it matters.  The reforms give the agency greater discretion to handle crises.  It also more fairly distributes the burden of capitalizing the fund if premiums are required.  Finally, it creates some new opportunities to draw deposits into the banking system."  [italics added for emphasis]

 

"President Gets Student Loan, Deposit Insurance Reform"  Financial Services Policy Bulletin Stanford Washington Research Group, February 1, 2006

 

"Sam Walton bred not only a kind of ruthless quest for efficiency in improving Wal-Mart's supply chain but also a degree of ruthlessness period.  One can only hope that all the bad publicity Wal-Mart has received ... will force it to understand that there is a fine line between a hyper efficient global supply chain ... and [pursuing] cost cutting and profit margins to such a degree that whatever social benefits it is offering with one hand, it is taking away with the other.  It [Wal-Mart] has so much leverage that it can grind down any supplier to the last halfpenny."

 

The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY, 2005, p. 137.

Educational Opportunities You Don't Want To Miss!

March 27-28  Strategies of Branching; Tampa, FL
March 29-30  >Effective Use of the ALCO Process; Tampa, FL

For more information visit www.icba.org/education or call 1-800-422-7285.


President's 2007 Budget Proposes Sharp Cuts in Farm Spending

Not surprisingly, the President's $2.8 trillion Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal, like last year's proposal, urges Congress to sharply reduce farm-related spending.  The proposal, released Monday, quickly generated negative reaction from both farm-state congressmen and farm groups.  The proposed USDA budget of $93 billion is $3 billion less than USDA's current budget. 

In a briefing Monday afternoon, Agriculture Secretary Johanns stated that long-term budget deficits and a prosperous agriculture are not a good fit.  He suggested that Congress would be more open to the proposed budget cuts this year because it is now apparent that spending under the 2002 farm program will be upwards of $7 billion more than originally expected and the recent budget reconciliation package, which reduced overall government spending by $39 billion, did not touch commodity programs.  Johanns noted that Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) payments reached a historical high of $20 billion in 2005 and were forecast to reach $21 billion in 2006.  The budget proposal calls for a cut to $19 billion for 2007.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) refuted the secretary's optimism, saying "We will continue to work for deficit reduction that will not burden farmers, particularly after the high fuel costs and extreme weather of the 2005 crop year.  Crop program spending through 2005 is $13 billion less than projected by the Congressional Budget Office in 2002 – now that we are about two thirds of the way through the current Farm Bill.  To their credit, farmers have been willing to share deficit reduction that comes in manageable amounts. 

"Congress did not pass last year's 2006 budget proposals.  The 2007 budget proposals are very similar, and once again unfairly target agriculture.  I expect Congress to reject them again."


More on FCS's Horizon Project and Recommendations

ICBA reported recently that Farm Credit System representatives recently released their Horizons Project report.  The 32-page report and a number of additional papers have been assembled on a dedicated web page,  www.fchorizons.com. By clicking the "Research" tab and then the "What's New" and "Click Here" tabs, you can access all the FCS's background materials.  Missing, however, is the 34-page set of legislative and regulatory recommendations that comprise the System's true objectives. 

ICBA has been stating for several years that the System's goal is to become the equivalent of commercial banks.  As such, the System wants to force community banks out of the local marketplace by cherry picking all the good non-farm loans, just as they do farm loans, while using its tax and funding advantages as a government sponsored enterprise (GSE).  The System's efforts in the Horizons project generally are geared towards making non-farm loans, with minimum regulatory oversight, in geographical areas vaguely defined as "rural" and to customers that include both farmers and non-farmers. 

The System's regulator, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), recently issued a "Termination" proposal that appears to contradict the intent of the Farm Credit Act, since it would prevent any institution from ever exiting the System.  FCA also has proposed a "Scope and Eligibility" rule that could be released this spring.  These efforts would dovetail with the Horizons project.

FCS representatives are now orchestrating a massive public relations and lobbying effort, asking all their farm customers and board members to voice support for the Horizons project to members of Congress. 

If you would like to see the full set of FCS's recommendations or volunteer for future grassroots activities opposing System attemps to become full-fledged commercial banks while retaining GSE status, please email: mark.scanlan@icba.org.


More on USDA's FY 2007 Budget Proposals

Farm Program Payments Would Be Cut.  The 2007 budget proposes a broad package of deficit reduction measures which are similar to the proposals in the FY-2006 budget which were not enacted by Congress. The proposals include legislative changes to make a net reduction in farm program spending of about $1.1 billion in 2007 and $7.7 billion over the ten-year period of 2007 through 2016.  These proposals include: reducing the payment limitation for all CCC commodity payments including marketing loan gains to $250,000; reducing all commodity and dairy payments to farmers by 5%; applying a 1.2% marketing assessment on sugar processors; keeping the costs of the dairy price support program at a minimum; and implementing a three cent per hundredweight assessment on milk marketings.  No cuts were proposed in popular consumer programs like Food Stamps, WIC, and the School Lunch program, which together represent over 50% of USDA's budget. 

USDA Plans Administrative Increase in Guaranteed Loan Fees. The 2007 budget supports about $3.4 billion in direct and guaranteed farm loans.  This compares to a total program level of $3.7 billion provided in 2006.  For farm operating loans, the 2007 budget provides $644 million for direct loans and about $1.3 billion for guaranteed loans, a decline of $112 million from last year.  For farm ownership loans, the 2007 budget provides $223 million in direct loans, compared with $206 million last year and $1.2 billion for guaranteed loans, a decline from last year's $1.386 billion. 

USDA states that it plans a "modest increase in the fee required to obtain guaranteed farm ownership and guaranteed unsubsidized farm operating loans."  This fee increase is expected to produce about $30 million in savings in 2007 and $300 million in savings over the next ten years. USDA said that the modified fee structure does not require congressional action and will be implemented through the rulemaking process.  The budget request also includes $990 million for business and industry guaranteed loans, an increase of $76 million above the 2006 level.

Crop Insurance Cuts Would Hurt Providers.  As in 2006, the budget proposes to require recipients, who receive any Federal payment for crops, to purchase crop insurance at a level that would provide protection at 50 percent of the crop's value.  Farm groups have opposed this proposal in recent years.  It also modifies the fee for catastrophic coverage, restructures premium rates to better reflect historical losses, and reduces delivery costs.  These proposals would save an estimated $1.3 billion beginning in 2008. 

USDA complains that although crop insurance is designed to be the primary federal risk management tool for farmers and ranchers, since 2000, four ad hoc disaster programs have been authorized, covering six crop years for a total cost of about $10 billion.  The continued reliance on disaster assistance stems, in part, from the low coverage level of catastrophic crop insurance (CAT), which provides a maximum of 27.5 percent of the crop value for a total crop loss.  When natural disasters occur, that low level of protection creates the demand for additional disaster assistance.  USDA also states that expenditures for crop insurance have grown nearly 50 percent between 2001 and 2007 with the implementation of the crop insurance reforms of 2000. 

The 2007 budget also includes a proposal to establish a fee to be paid by companies participating in the Federal Crop Insurance Program.  The fee would generate up to $15 million annually and would be based on the amount of premium sales generated by each company participating in the program.  The fees are expected to be about one-half cent per premium dollar.  Fee income would be used to help USDA update its antiquated computer systems in order to prevent computer outages and lower maintenance costs. 


House Ag Committee Holds First Farm Bill Hearings

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) this week convened the first two hearings to review the 2002 Farm Bill.  The hearings, held in Fayetteville, NC and Auburn, AL, were the first of two in a series of hearings the Committee plans to conduct with producers around the country. 

"These hearings are designed to give producers an opportunity to share their thoughts about what aspects of the current farm bill are working and which ones need to be modified.  American agriculture employs over 24 million Americans and is vital to our economy.  Today's farmers and ranchers face extraordinary challenges in the farming business including the constant threat of weather related disasters, potential increases in government regulation and trade related issues. We need to ensure that our producers have a strong farm policy to rely on and this is why it is so important to hear from producers," said Chairman Goodlatte.


Dugan Lays Out Recommendations On Privacy Notices, Data Security

In a recent speech, Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan praised interagency efforts to simplify bank privacy notices and called for development of a single federal data security standard to protect consumers.

Dugan said he believes most bank consumers do not find privacy notices particularly useful. The notices contain a host of mandated and specific disclosures and lack uniformity.  Regulations encourage use of legal terms.  The result: privacy notices are too complex.

"Each year, banks and other financial institutions bear the cost of mailing such mandatory notices to their many millions of customers, even though we suspect that most of the notices go from postman to trashcan without ever being read," Dugan said.  "Put more harshly, in too many instances privacy notices are nothing more than costly waste."

Regulators are testing shorter, more focused notices to see what works for consumers.

Noting that Congress is considering data security legislation, Dugan said banks should not be subjected to two different federal standards.  "Either they should continue to be subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley regime alone, with modifications as appropriate, or that regime should be supplemented by one that applies to all companies—so long as a standard can be crafted that makes sense to apply to bank and nonbank companies alike," Dugan said.
 
Dugan also recommended that if Congress adopts a single federal standard for all institutions, including banks, three principles should guide their actions:

  • Functional regulators should write the rules for institutions within their jurisdiction.
  • Functional regulators should have exclusive authority to enforce the rules.
  • A uniform national standard is appropriate to govern the safeguarding of personal information and notice to consumers of security breaches

ICBA supports Dugan's recommendations.


CRA Credit Available for All Banks for Hurricane Investments

The federal banking agencies have affirmed that banks will be given favorable CRA consideration for investments in minority-owned banks in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.  Many of these banks were particularly affected by the hurricane as a large proportion of their depositors and borrowers were from the most devastated areas of New Orleans. The agencies responded to a letter from members of the House Financial Services Committee urging them to take such a step because minority-owned institutions traditionally provide financial services and products to otherwise underserved populations. 

The agencies pointed out that CRA credit generally may be given for capital investments, loan participations and other ventures undertaken with minority-owned banks, as long as the activity helps meet the credit needs of the local community where the minority-owned bank is chartered.  The agencies also pointed out that, to be given favorable CRA consideration, the activity need not be limited to the investing bank's assessment area or the broader statewide area that includes the bank's assessment area.  To read the agencies' letter, visit http://www.icba.org (scroll to Hurricane Disaster Relief and Information).


Agencies Issue Exam Guidelines for Gulf Coast Banks

The federal banking agencies and state banking authorities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have issued special guidance for examiners reviewing banks in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, urging examiners to be flexible when assessing bank performance.  Examiners are to give appropriate consideration to the impact the storms may have had on banks in the region that may be beyond management's control, especially in light of the "unique and long-term nature of the problems faced by affected institutions." 

Examiners should consider the reasonableness of the bank's plans to respond to the storms' impact on its business strategy and future operations, given economic conditions.  Examiners should evaluate the bank's response, including the bank's assessment of the impact on individual loans and the overall loan portfolio.  Changes in loan policies should be consistent with the bank's overall strategic plan.  Examiners should generally not criticize a bank that is making efforts to work with affected borrowers, but the bank should document the reasons for the steps it is taking. 

Existing loan classification standards will apply where indications are the loan will not be repaid or where the borrower cannot be contacted.  However, examiners should consider that banks may need more time than normal to evaluate borrowers' ability to repay, the impact on collateral, and the potential for insurance coverage.

Because banks may experience unusual spikes in deposits following the storms, examiners are to consider the nature and timing of disaster-related deposit inflows when reviewing liquidity.  Management is expected to monitor the situation and make appropriate adjustments.

The guidance is at www.fdic.gov/news/news/financial/2006/fil06012.html.


FinCEN Alert on Potential Hurricane-Related Fraud
Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an alert for banks outlining red flags that may indicate possible fraud related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.  Banks should watch for deposits of multiple assistance checks into a single account, one individual cashing multiple assistance checks, deposits of assistance checks into a retail account when the payee is different than the accountholder, and new accounts opened with an assistance check when the payee and the name on the account are different.  If a bank encounters a possibly fraudulent transaction and files a suspicious activity report (SAR), FinCEN urges the bank to include key terms such as "Katrina," "Rita," Wilma," FEMA," "Red Cross," or "hurricane" in the SAR narrative to help law enforcement track possible violations.  The alert is at www.fincen.gov/hurricanebenefitfraud.pdf.

Briefly ...

2006 National Community Reinvestment Conference.   The federal bank and thrift regulatory agencies will host the 2006 National Community Reinvestment Conference at the Green Valley Ranch, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 19-22.  This year's conference, "Winning Strategies for Community Development," looks at community development programs that build vibrant, diverse neighborhoods with strong economies, particularly important in light of recent changes to CRA rules, Hurricane Katrina, and new and complex financing tools.  For more information or to register on line, visit: www.frbsf.org/community/.

Regulators to Hold Gulf Coast Banking Forum.  The federal bank and thrift regulatory agencies will host a forum in New Orleans on March 2 and 3, 2006. The forum, titled "The Future of Banking on the Gulf Coast: Helping Banks and Thrifts Rebuild Communities," will focus on challenges facing banks and thrifts operating in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and on ways of helping meet local community needs.  Principals from each of the four federal banking agencies will participate in the day and a half forum.  The FDIC and NeighborWorks of New Orleans will conduct optional bus tours of devastated areas nearby on the afternoons of Wednesday, March 1, and Friday, March 3.
 
Bankers in the areas most severely affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and banks outside the region interested in providing technical assistance or other support or in learning how they can help, are welcome to attend.  For more information call 703-516-1049 or e-mail at mbluyus@fdic.gov.




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