Community banks call for Dodd-Frank relief

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The push to avoid new regulations comes as regulators are still hard at work implementing the Dodd-Frank overhaul. The wide-ranging law made huge changes to the regulatory environment for the financial sector, including new rules for derivatives, stricter restrictions on trading activity and an entirely new financial agency with a mission to look out for consumers.

The law was enacted roughly two and a half years ago, but rules are still being written for some of its biggest pieces. Financial institutions of all sizes are pushing for flexible rules, and ICBA officials contend that community banks should get a break from many of these requirements.

“Community banks face an alphabet soup of regulations, each of which contains hundreds of pages of burdensome rules,” said Jeffrey L. Gerhart, president and CEO of Nebraska's Bank of Newman Grove. “From A to Z and beyond, these regulations impose direct costs on community banks, inhibiting them from serving their customers and communities."

As banks push for more carve-outs, regulators have sought to assuage concerns aired by community banks. Officials from top financial regulators like the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have repeatedly said the goal of Dodd-Frank was not to bring down a slew of new rules on community banks, and many of its most visible provisions are specifically targeted at the titans of Wall Street.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told ICBA members in March that regulators were looking to achieve a "clear distinction" between large and small banks in drafting their rules.

"Community bankers tell us repeatedly that they are concerned about the changing regulatory environment," he told bankers in a prerecorded video. "It is important to emphasize that the Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act largely in response to the 'too big to fail' problem, and that most of its provisions ... apply only, or principally, to the largest, most complex, and internationally active banks. These new standards are not meant to apply to, and clearly would not be appropriate for, community banks."