ICBA - Publications - CEO Alerts - Message to Community Bankers from the ICBA CEO

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Dear Community Bank CEO,

I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day holiday and that this email finds you well.

The official summer season is now behind us and a busy fall lies ahead. Given that the rest of 2011 is likely to be unusually busy, I thought this would be a good time to update ICBA’s membership and all community banks on what is going on at ICBA.

The Congress returns this week from its August recess. President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on his jobs plan, and economic and jobs data remain very weak. Stimulating economic growth through the creation of new jobs will be the primary focus for policymakers throughout Washington for months to come.

Key issues ICBA will be addressing this fall:

  • You may have heard that ICBA has taken on the Department of Justice on what we believe is a heavy-handed and incorrect interpretation of the Fair Lending Act. Several members requested help from ICBA on this issue, and as all member banks know we do not shy away from a fight when the interests of community banks are at stake. Read my letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder. Read the Wall Street Journal article.

  • ICBA has also questioned the explicit extension of the near-zero interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve Board. It is ICBA’s belief that extending the current rate environment “until at least mid-2013,” as Federal Reserve officials declared, is not only very detrimental to community banks, but will hurt pension plans, annuities and our senior population as well. Read my Op-Ed published in the Washington Post newspaper.

  • And of course, ICBA is rattling the cage every single day at the banking agencies and Treasury about the overly harsh and restrictive field examination environment and the overly aggressive attitudes of some field examination teams—whether they have affected safety and soundness, compliance or IT examinations. The poor economy, the harsh examination atmosphere worsened by new regulatory requirements imposed by a number of congressional acts passed over the past three years, and several regulatory agency “guidelines” promulgated by the agencies themselves are a triple whammy on community banks.

ICBA has done much to mitigate the full force of these acts and regulations on community banks, but we are working diligently to do much more.

ICBA is actively shaping the future:

  • We conceived, helped draft and got introduced into Congress the Communities First Act (HR 1697). This act will go far in mitigating regulatory burdens and examination pressures and will provide much-needed targeted tax relief for community banks. Please see our website for the key features of the act that will provide direct help to your bank.

    ICBA is the only national trade association to endorse and push for the Communities First Act (CFA), so we need every community banker to help us get this bill enacted by contacting his or her members in the House and Senate. We will not stop until we see the CFA measures enacted, either entirely in a single bill or as amendments to various other legislation moving through Congress.

  • As you may know, 18 months ago, Treasury reached out to ICBA and asked us what type of program Treasury could offer that would help community banks in the current economic environment. We detailed how capital is critical to many community banks as the private capital markets remained frozen. Working with Treasury, the ICBA crafted the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF)—and we were successful in getting it passed by Congress against difficult odds. Again, ICBA was the only association that pushed for the act and, with our members’ help, got it enacted.

    To date, 130 community banks have received $1.8 billion in additional Tier One capital to strengthen their balance sheets so that they can better serve their communities. ICBA continues to press Treasury and the bank regulators to help ensure the SBLF program works as best as possible for all eligible community banks. ICBA sent a letter to Chairman Bernanke expressing our dismay at the reluctance of the Federal Reserve to grant dividend waivers to what we believe are deserving community banks. We will continue to push the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and all bank regulators to be more flexible. But the good news is that more of our community banks continue to be helped by the SBLF capital program, and many are able to refinance their TARP CPP capital with SBLF capital under better terms.

  • The credit union industry is raising its ugly head again to push for expanded business lending. ICBA is pushing back very hard. ICBA will continue to vigorously oppose any expansion of credit union lending authorities and will push hard to close the credit union tax loophole that allows credit unions to act like banks but not pay taxes. As all of you know these are very tough issues, so we can use all the support we can get in Washington to advance our cause. It is important that every citizen knows credit unions don’t pay taxes. Read a letter to the Administration.

Finally, my hat is off to every community banker who receives this message. God bless all of you for the incredible jobs you do in supporting your towns, cities and rural areas. You are the great backbone not only of the financial services industry, but of this nation as a whole. You are the economic engines of Main Street America. And ICBA is proud to serve as your clear and uncompromised voice in Washington, D.C. We will always have your back!

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