Some 500 bankers gathered in rainy Boston this week at the American Bankers Association's annual regulatory compliance conference. The hottest topics were the new Community Reinvestment Act rules and the possibility of regulatory relief from Congress.
The conference was so well attended that extra chairs were needed for many sessions. In fact, the ABA got complaints the first morning from bankers who went hungry because there weren't enough muffins to go around.
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One of the regulators most involved in CRA reform was not happy when a banker asked: "Why is credit allocation still the heart of the regulation?"
Glenn Loney, associate director of consumer and community affairs at the Federal Reserve Board, said the regulators must guard against credit quotas.
"If that is the outcome of this very lengthy process, I'll be disappointed myself," Mr. Loney said.
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Pamela Johnson, assistant director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, told bankers at the conference to relax if they can't adopt the new currency transaction report by the Oct. 1 deadline.
"If you can't use it by Oct. 1, that's O.K.," said Ms. Johnson. While she didn't say how long bankers can get away with filing the old form, Ms. Johnson did point out that the new one has fewer blanks to fill in and takes less time to complete.
The form is used by banks to report transactions over $10,000. Fincen, part of the Treasury Department, uses the information to track money launderers and other financial criminals.
Ms. Johnson also gave bankers at the conference an update on Fincen's attempts to list the companies that banks can exempt from currency transaction filings. Treasury was required by Congress last year to find a way to cut the number of currency reports filed by 30%.
Devising the list, which is expected to include well-capitalized public companies and government entities such as schools and police stations, has been difficult, Ms. Johnson said. "We are struggling," she admitted. "We are desperate for ideas." The process is difficult, in part, because big companies vary by region, she said.
Fincen is leaning toward using an existing list, such as the Standard & Poor's 500, Ms. Johnson said.
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The ABA's compliance executive committee gave its first Distinguished Service Award to Jack Adams, vice president and corporate compliance officer at CoreStates Financial Corp.
Mr. Adams, who chaired the committee in 1986, helped found the ABA compliance school. He is currently chairman of the school's advisory board as well as a member of the Fed's Consumer Advisory Council.
"We owe much to Jack for his initiatives in the development of compliance management," said Kate Barr, the ABA's compliance committee's current chair and senior vice president at Riverside Bank, Minneapolis. "He recognized early that compliance officers need to develop their professional, technical, and management skills to carry out the growing responsibilities of the job."