It looks like community bankers' complaints about excessive regulatory burden haven't completely fallen on deaf ears. True, lawmakers seem almost certain to pass new laws mandating more consumer protections, but in recent weeks they have also convinced regulators to delay implementation of several rules that were approved long before the financial crisis struck, and two could be legislated out of existence before they ever take effect.
The first reprieve came when the Federal Trade Commission, "at the request of members of Congress" gave banks until June 1 to comply with "Red Flag Rules" requiring them to put in place comprehensive identity theft prevention programs.
Small, publicly traded banks then caught a break when the SEC said that companies with market caps of less than $75 million could have yet another six months (until mid-June) to comply with a Sarbanes-Oxley provision requiring auditors to make sure financial statements were accurate, and they were even more cheered when a House committee voted in November to exempt them from ever complying with the law.
Finally, an Internet gambling rule slated to take effect Dec. 1 was delayed until June 1 - and perhaps indefinitely.
The rule would essentially require banks to enforce a law prohibiting Internet betting sites from accepting credit cards and other electronic payments. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) strongly opposes the Internet gambling ban and said that six months would give Congress plenty of time "to undo this regulatory excess by the Bush administration and to undo this ill-advised law."