WASHINGTON - A raft of banking rules - including deposit insurance premium cuts and Community Reinvestment Act reform - could be affected by a six-month moratorium on new regulations that is being proposed in Congress.
The Republican initiative, introduced this week in the House by majority whip Tom DeLay, would impose a ban on new government regulations until June 30. The Texas Republican's ban also would be retroactive to Nov. 9.
Though President Clinton resisted the GOP's earlier call for a voluntary ban on new rules, Dow Jones reported Wednesday that Mr. Clinton told his cabinet secretaries to look for ways to "restrain bureaucracies from just spewing out regulations."
Legislation mirroring the DeLay bill, H.R. 450, is expected to be introduced in the Senate shortly by Sen. Don Nickels, R-Okla.
Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America, fired off a letter to House and Senate leaders Thursday requesting an amendment to exclude premium reductions from the moratorium.
As presently drafted, the legislation "could prevent the FDIC from proposing and subsequently adopting a revised rule to reduce the deposit insurance premiums paid by banks," Mr. Guenther said.
The legislation does contain several exemptions that may protect some banking rules.
For example, the bill would exclude actions that reduce regulatory burden by "repealing, narrowing, or streamlining a rule, regulation, or administrative process."
Whether CRA reform and the premium reduction come under that exemption is unclear. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. officials as well as industry representatives said Thursday that they are still trying to figure out what the exemptions cover.
The FDIC is scheduled to propose a premium reduction on Jan. 31 and complete the regulation in April or May. The CRA reform plan, in the works for 18 months, is scheduled to be completed at the end of February.
James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, had not read the bill but said the reduction is mandated by current law and should not be affected.
Another proposal potentially sidelined by the moratorium is a plan to incorporate interest rate risk into capital measures. Ironically, it was Congress that mandated this rule in 1991, but the regulators have yet to implement it. The agencies have been planning to release a new version of the interest-rate risk rule in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the freeze would delay tougher affordable-housing targets for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giants of the secondary mortgage market. (See related story on page 8.)
If the moratorium is enacted and is applied retroactively, a number of banking regulations already finalized would be suspended, including a recent decision to exclude from capital the effects of Financial Accounting Standard 115, which requires banks to mark to market securities available for sale. Under the new ruling, banks are not required to incorporate unrealized gains and losses into Tier 1 capital.
Changes to Call Reports, requiring more information on derivatives, scheduled to kick in March 31, could also be rejected.
Separately Thursday, the IBAA proposed a 27-point plan to reduce regulatory burden including excusing from CRA all banks with less than $500 million in assets and repealing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
"Fortunately, we have a Congress, and hopefully an administration, that's committed to slashing - not expanding - the regulatory burden," said IBAA president John Shivers. "The banking industry must take the lead in coming up with a road map highlighting the most onerous, counterproductive regulations."