WASHINGTON -- Acting Comptroller of the Currency Stephen R. Steinbrink critized Congress and the White House on Thursday for sending conflicting signals to regulators.
Congress has ordered regulators to write tough rules, he said, while the White House is urging them to roll back burdensome regulations. That is causing some confusion, he said in a speech to Women in Finance and Housing a local organization.
"We have to walk a fine line," he said. "It is not easy to walk . . . between a rock and a hard place. The position can get very uncomfortable," said Mr. Steinbrink, a career regulator.
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He is expected to serve as acting comptroller until James E. Gilleran, California's banking commissioner, is confirmed for the position by the Senate. No confirmation hearing has been scheduled yet.
The banking agencies are in the process of implementing numerous regulations mandated by last year's Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act.
But they have been jawboned frequently by the Bush administration to reduce regulations that are "burdensome" in order to promote economic growth.
In fact, the administration may introduce next week a bill calling for the elimination of some regulations.
Mr. Steinbrink has given a handful of speeches since replacing Robert L. Clarke, who resigned in February after a failed bid a second confirmation.
He has used most of the occasions to warn bankers about the pitfalls posed by the new banking law.
This latest speech was no exception. Mr. Steinbrink said that a provision of the new law that requires banks with more than $150 million in assets to have annual outside audits could increase audit costs by at least 15%.
For big banks, that could amount to at least an extra $1 million, he said.
The audit provision also turns up the heat on directors serving on audit committees.
"These are the directors that the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] will hold accountable if the bank fails," he said.
That prospect may frighten off capable directors, he added.