WASHINGTON -- Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, chairman of the House Banking Committee, is urging Vice President Al Gore to consider combining the bank regulatory agencies as part of his effort to streamline the federal bureaucracy.
"The current federal bank regulatory system fits right into Vice President Gore's definition of a duplicative, inefficient, and expensive system," said Rep. Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat.
Although Rep. Gonzalez and the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., are strong advocates of regulatory consolidation, it is widely assumed that legislation in this area is unlikely to move this year.
Improving the System
Rep. Gonzalez introduced a bill March 14 that would consolidate the regulation and supervision of banks and thrifts in a single agency.
That contrasts with the current system, in which bank regulation is shared among the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Savings and loan supervision is handled by the Office of the Thrift Supervision.
Sen. Riegle also has been giving the issue a close look. Earlier this year, he said regulatory consolidation might be the best way to meet the bank industry's objective of regulatory relief. He has not introduced legislation. Both committee chairmen say they believe that agency consolidation would be more efficient and less costly for banks and thrifts.
Bankers are less sure, however.
"I don't think there are many efficiencies to be gained," said Stephen J. Verdier, a lobbyist for the Independent Bankers Association of America.
Mr. Verdier said the independent bankers group prefers the existing system of multiple regulators, which he said provides "a system of checks and balances."
In a letter Monday to the vice president, Rep. Gonzalez said e system has not kept up with changes in the market.
"These agencies were created at different periods to serve different needs, needs which have changed as the financial system has evolved, but which have not been met with comparable change in the regulatory structure," he wrote.
With a single agency, he said, regulators would no longer duplicate each other's efforts or engage in unproductive interagency rivalries.
The result, he said, would be. lower paperwork costs for the regulated institutions and more effective enforcement. Rep. Gonzalez said consolidation also would reduce the administrative costs of regulation, which would save insured institutions money as well.
Rep. Gonzalez told the vice president that his bill, the Regulatory Consolidation Act, has the same broad goal as the administration's National Performance Review.
The common aim, he said, is "cutting the fat out of a bloated bureaucracy and reducing the cost of regulation while also increasing the effectiveness of regulatory administration and enforcement."