To the Editor:

I continue to be amazed that so-called community activists will argue against allowing communities to know what they’re up to, as John Taylor does in his comments on your Feb. 2 Viewpoints page [“Treasury Underestimates the Damage that Gramm-Leach-Bliley Did to CRA”].

Mr. Taylor asserts that a recent Treasury Department report on the Community Reinvestment Act “fails to capture the full dimensions of the harmful effects of so-called sunshine,” referring to the CRA sunshine provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

I don’t know what the Treasury Department said about sunshine, but I know what I was thinking when I wrote the provisions.

I was thinking of the people who live in neighborhoods that are supposed to benefit from agreements between banks and CRA advocates. Those agreements can promise new bank branches, new automated teller machines, new pools of loan money, as well as lucrative payments to the advocates.

Until Gramm-Leach-Bliley, those agreements could be kept secret and typically were. If you lived in a neighborhood covered by one of those agreements, you wouldn’t know whether to hold your bank accountable for stalling on loans or a new ATM, and you sure wouldn’t know how your neighborhood advocate was spending the money collected in your name.

The sunshine provisions of Gramm-Leach-Bliley were meant to break the secrecy and bring some accountability to the big business of CRA. Where, Mr. Taylor, is the harm in that?

Phil Gramm
Chairman, U.S. Senate
Banking Committee

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