Regulators gave four bank executives a chance to present their concerns about enforcement of revised Community Reinvestment Act rules, but the executives were prevented from observing examiners' first training session last week in Dallas.
A. Hartie Spence, president of Calcasieu Marine National Bank in Lake Charles, La., said regulators assured the bankers they would not be in the dark much longer.
"They said they would be very proactive about telling us specifics when they know," Mr. Spence said.
Top concerns among the bankers were clarifying ambiguous language in the rule, dealing with new reporting requirements, and making sure regulators are well informed about a bank's community before examining the institution.
"How will examiners know what I know about the dynamics of the community where I live?" asked Betty Flores, senior vice president of Laredo (Tex.) National Bank. "We were worried that the only time we ever talk to regulators is the day before the exam, or even the day of the exam. In this transition time, we really need a chance to discuss stuff with our regulators well before the exam."
The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of Thrift Supervision, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency came out with new CRA rules in April. The requirements, which focus on lending, services, and investment, take effect Jan. 1.
While regulators blocked the bankers from last week's examiners' training session, the agencies have decided to permit members of the Federal Reserve's Consumer Advisory Council to observe future sessions, beginning in November in San Francisco.
Bankers will receive the details of the new exam procedures on Oct. 19 during a teleconference on the American Bankers' Association Skylink service. After San Francisco, remaining CRA training sessions will take place in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston in November and December.
In Dallas, the panel included Ms. Flores, Mr. Spence, Nancy Brabandt, vice president in charge of community reinvestment of Comerica Bank-Texas in Dallas; and Linda Walker, vice president and CRA compliance officer with Guaranty Federal Bank in Dallas. Mr. Spence estimated the audience of examiners and agency officials at 250 to 300 people.
The panelists said the goal of the discussion was to allow bankers present their concerns about the rules.
"I was afraid that we were really going to have to watch our p's and q's, but it wasn't that way at all," Ms. Flores said. "We had a real unique combination of people on the panel, and no one was afraid to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Unclear language in the act's writing was also a concern. Mr. Spence said the use of vague phrases like "substantially," "leader in the community development community," and "make extensive use" make compliance difficult.
Ms. Brabandt said she was concerned about making sure that her interpretation of the regulation matched that of the examiners, and about new reporting issues.
"Right now our biggest issue is trying to implement tracking and measuring procedures to comply with the new reporting requirements," Ms. Brabandt said.