Regulators Get Out The Shears For Photo Opp, But...

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It was a surreal scene here last week- one of the made-for-public-consumption photo opportunities that politicians and government entities revel in.

That was the gathering of representatives from the four banking agencies-the Federal Reserve, FDIC, Comptroller of the Currency, and Office of Thrift Supervision-along with NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, to announce a three-year effort to identify rules for a major regulatory relief initiative.

The regulators all patted each other on the back for embarking on what they kept referring to as an ambitious project, then took turns posing for the cameras with garden shears purporting to cut "red tape."

But experienced observers had to ask themselves, what makes this initiative so special since the effort to target and reduce regulatory burden is supposed to be an ongoing effort? I mean, as long as I have been covering the financial services beat, going on 15 years now, the regulators have been asked about and have proposed regulatory cutbacks. In fact, in virtually every Congress lawmakers ask the banking regulators to provide them with rules and regulations ripe for amendment or elimination for inclusion in a regulatory relief bill. An omnibus bill pass by the House Financial Services Committee just last month is the latest such effort.

The regulators pointed out that they are required to conduct the comprehensive review under a 1996 law called the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act, known by its acronym, EGRPRA (everything has an acronym in Washington).

To his credit, NCUA Chairman Dollar noted that the process of identifying areas fertile for regulatory relief is an ongoing one at NCUA. In fact, Dollar's predecessor, Norm D'Amours, made it a permanent practice that old rules and regulations are reviewed on a regular basis for the potential for update or total elimination. Dollar also noted that the majority of the regulations to be reviewed by the banking regulators do not apply to credit unions, so the credit union regulator will have a minor role in the process.

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