William G. Price has become something of a hero among bankers in southwestern Florida.
The 70-year-old former chairman of Tri-County Community Bank in Lehigh Acres, about 20 miles east of Fort Myers, achieved fame by acting on feelings that many bank directors repress: He publicly blasted regulators as a crew of knee-jerk stooges and quit.
"It is stressful, disconcerting, and demeaning as well as insulting after almost a half century of high-performance banking and community involvement to be told by immature, inexperienced, neophyte examiners that you're doing everything wrong because you don't follow the know-it-all, checklist procedures imposed by Congress," Mr. Price wrote in a fiery resignation letter.
The letter, which was printed in several Florida newspapers last month, may have earned Mr. Price more praise from fellow bankers than any single achievement in his lengthy, highly active career in banking and community service.
Mr. Price, who has been president of the Florida Bankers Association as well as president of two other banks in his area, got about 25 letters and phone calls from supporters after his letter was published. And his son, Stephen L. Price, also a bank president, is getting calls praising his father, too.
"Every time I play golf, people come up to me and say, 'Boy, I sure enjoyed reading that article because it was right on target,' " William Price said. "I spoke with Gerald Lewis (the outgoing Florida bank commissioner) a couple of weeks ago, and he agreed with everything I said."
One banker wrote that he believes Mr. Price's letter "strikes a responsive chord in the heart of every bank director in the country."
Mr. Price's letter has been read at several bank board meetings and was sent by a Fort Myers dentist to Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and to incoming Senate Banking Committee Chairman Al D'Amato, R-N.Y.
Mr. Price, who had been chairman of $39 million-asset Tri-County from its founding in 1974 until he officially stepped down Dec. 31, said he would have stayed on as chairman for a few more years but just couldn't take it anymore.
"I had to read every night what we had to do to stay out of jail," he said. "I don't need some 26-year-old examiner telling me I'm stupid and don't know what I'm doing."
Recently revamped regulations, such as those enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act, particularly gall Mr. Price, given his years of community service. He has received outstanding citizenship awards several times.
The "unreasonable regulations" that have sprung up since the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s have created a lot of waste, both of time and resources, Mr. Price believes.
The added costs ultimately are borne by the customer, who also has to wait about three times as long now to have a loan approved, he said.
Stephen Price, who is president of nearby First Bank of Immokalee, shares his father's sentiments. He has told his 20-year-old son he wouldn't pay for college if the boy decides to major in banking.