WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros on Wednesday criticized changes to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act contained in Senate regulatory reform legislation.

Testifying before the Senate Banking subcommittee on financial institutions, Mr. Cisneros said that attempts to loosen requirements for such data collection would hamper the department's fair-lending enforcement.

"For HUD, HMDA is most important as a tool which helps us focus our fair-lending efforts," Mr. Cisneros said. "The administration opposes the changes to HMDA . . . because it would weaken this important enforcement tool in several ways."

The measure, introduced by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., would exempt banks with less than $50 million of assets from mortgage date reporting requirements. Currently, the law only covers lenders with more than $10 million of assets. The bill would also allow the Federal Reserve Board to exempt banks with more than $50 million of assets if the regulator deems that compliance costs outweigh the usefulness of the data collected.

Mr. Cisneros said that more than one-third of the 8,661 banks required to report mortgage data as of April 16, 1994, have assets between $10 million and $50 million and therefore would be exempted from the reporting requirements under the Senate bill.

However, Sen. Shelby, who chairs the Senate Banking subcommittee, was not moved by Mr. Cisneros' arguments and slammed him for being "unaware of the real burdens on financial institutions."

"You like the status quo, and you're not in tune with all the paperwork . . . a lot of it comes out of your agency," Sen. Shelby said.

A panel of banking industry representatives that testified before the subcommittee applauded nearly all of the provisions in the Shelby-Mack bill, with a few exceptions.

Richard L. Mount, president and chief executive of Saratoga National Bank in Saratoga, Calif., argued that a provision in the bill that would lift the 7% growth cap on nonbank-bank subsidiaries of commercial firms was not germane to the regulatory reform bill.

"Lifting the growth cap is a banking and commerce issue," said Mr. Mount, who is also president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. "It should be considered, and hopefully rejected, when this committee takes up financial institution restructuring legislation."

The panel of bankers applauded the provisions in the Shelby-Mack bill that would exempt small banks from the Community Reinvestment Act and would shield them from community protests.

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