In recent opinion piece for Bloomberg News, ICBA CEO Camden Fine was in fine fettle, ranting about his favorite topic: new regulatory burdens are strangling community while the largest banks are doing just fine, thank you very much. Among his salient points are the following:
The megabanks are benefiting from what Bloomberg View calculated is an $83 billion annual taxpayer subsidy, the value of implicit guarantees by the U.S. Treasury. Bloomberg View was correct to characterize the too-big-to-fail subsidy as “a major driver of the largest banks’ profits.”
Perversely, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data show that large banks have both the lowest credit quality and the lowest cost of funds in the industry. Community banks rank the highest in both categories even though they have had to compete for years against the megabanks’ access to cheaper money in pricing loans. In addition, community banks must compete against the big lenders’ lower comparative costs in handling regulatory paperwork.
While Cam complains that this is "morally wrong," I suspect that in a nation overrun with Pontius Pilates who sneer in the throes of their born-again relativism "What is 'truth'?," appealing to "morality" as a behavior influencer will have as much impact on Congress as a stern talking to by Pope Francis would have on Charlie Sheen. More effective on the morally challenged is likely to be his economic arguments.
Community banks should be putting their capital to work in the small towns, rural communities and middle-class urban enclaves they know well. Instead, they are focusing too many of their precious human resources on onerous paperwork and time-consuming compliance measures.
Community banks are the source of almost 60 percent of all small-business loans of less than $1 million, as well as mortgage and consumer loans tailored to the needs of their local communities. Large banking organizations with more than $50 billion in assets hold almost 40 percent of outstanding small loans to businesses, according to the Federal Reserve, but loans to small businesses aren’t a significant portion of large-bank lending. Small-business loans represent less than 5 percent of the large banks’ total domestic lending.
Cam outlines five specific steps Congress and the federal regulators could take to help community banks (and credit unions, for that matter, although Cam would choke on his own tongue before admitting it). They include:
- Easing up on some of the more onerous residential mortgage lending and servicing rules.
- Eliminating the requirement that community banks report on every new small business loan application.
- Requiring a cost-benefit analysis for all new regulations and prohibiting the issuance of any regulation where the cost exceeds the benefit.
- Raising the threshold to $350 million in assets for the requirement for an audit of a bank's internal controls.
- Eliminating the annual requirement for sending no-change privacy policies.
These are all helpful suggestions, but I'm frankly surprised that he didn't also call for the carpet bombing of CFPB's D.C. headquarters and insist that Jamie Dimon's king-size bed be short-sheeted. Oh well, the year is not even half over. There's still time to get down to the really important stuff.