While banks were raking in nearly $11 billion in the first quarter, the regulators were churning out more than 1,100 pages of information for them.
To be exact, 1, 158 pages went out to banks in 68 mailings, according to the reckoning of Fred Denton, president of First National Bank of McGehee, a $28 million-asset bank in southeastern Arkansas.
Mr. Denton is waging a one-man war against excessive regulation. Last month he sent Washington policymakers - including President Clinton - a letter detailing the regulatory demands his bank has to contend with, ranging from filings for the Disaster Relief Act of 1992 to requests for information on Brazilian IOU Bonds.
His mail comes from the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"I've been considering making copies of every page of every proposed regulation and boxing them up" and shipping them to policymakers in Washington, Mr. Denton said last week. "But my cost for regulation is already totally out of line, so I couldn't afford to do that."
To buttress his case, he plans to enlist his customers' support.
A letter to Congress complaining about overregulation will accompany each of First National's loan applications. Mr. Denton thinks that after signing their names 20 times to get a mortgage, customers will want to sign that letter to lawmakers.
|The Customers Are Paying'
"Congress is trying to protect consumers, but it's the customers that are paying for all this regulation," he said.
The banker said he can't put a figure on his regulatory costs, but one of his 19 employees spends full time on compliance, and 60% of Mr. Denton's weekly officer meeting is consumed with regulatory issues.
McGehee is a farm town of 5,000 people. Because those are the people Mr. Denton lends to, he finds the Community Reinvestment Act useless. "We have to do a tremendous amount of statistical tracking to prove that we are not guilty before we are charged," he said.
Truth-in-Savings is another huge, unnecessary expense, Mr. Denton said. First National is devoting one staff member to compliance with the changes coming to Truth-in-Savings regs and is buying equipment and software to help.