Regulators plan to significantly revamp rules enforcing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
As early as this week, the Federal Reserve Board will issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for both the fair-lending laws, consolidating some provisions and providing new guidance on other sections.
"We are going to look at these rules, and we want input to make them as modern as possible," said Griffith L. Garwood, the Fed's director of consumer and community affairs. "The idea is to streamline them if possible."
Speaking Monday at the Independent Bankers Association of America's annual convention here, Mr. Garwood said the Fed will be asking open-ended questions about how to improve the rules rather than suggesting specific changes. It expects to sort through the comments and issue a proposal this summer. A final rule is likely by yearend.
Industry officials said they welcome any change that would make it easier to comply with the fair-lending laws.
"We are overregulated in every area," said Gof Thomson, president of Bank of New Glarus, Wis. "There has just been a whole tone over the last few years that we can create the perfect world with regulation. But what we have done is made it more expensive and difficult to make loans."
The government also is preparing to issue joint fair-lending examination procedures this summer. Stephen M. Cross, deputy comptroller for community and consumer policy, said the procedures will be similar to guidance the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released in September.
These guidelines state that regulators will use regression analyses to identify fair-lending violations if there are more than 50 rejected applicants from a protected class, such as minorities or women. All other banks will be subject to comparative file reviews, which means examiners will use bank records to see whether the institution treats borrowers fairly.
Mr. Cross also warned bankers that community groups are using matched- pair testing to identify lenders who discriminate. "There are organizations conducting fair-lending tests in your banks, and they are prepared to file complaints over those tests," he said.
But Mr. Cross complained about the quality of many of the community group reviews, noting that the testers often visit different loan officers or have different credit histories.