WASHINGTON — The House Financial Services Committee is drawing up a bill to ease bankers’ regulatory burden, according to a letter from the committee’s chairman to bank and thrift regulators.

The committee is “developing a ‘regulatory relief’ bill for its consideration later this session,” Rep. Michael G. Oxley said in the Aug. 10 letter, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by American Banker. “The Committee intends to include legislative items that would alter or eliminate statutory provisions in order to lessen the regulatory burden on insured depository institutions and improve productivity, as well as make needed technical corrections to current statutes.”

The Ohio Republican asked the agencies to “provide the committee with your three or four highest priority items for our consideration in putting together this bill.”

Robert R. Davis, the managing director of government relations for America’s Community Bankers, said that there are relatively few major regulatory-relief issues on small banks’ radar. Among his group’s main priorities, he said, would be liberalizing some of the statutory lending constraints for thrifts.

“There are multiple unnecessary restrictions that are preventing savings associations from meeting all the credit needs that exist in their communities right now,” he said, “even though these institutions are meeting their obligations to serve the mortgage financing needs of those communities.”

For example, thrifts are restricted to holding no more than 10% of assets in small-business loans.

“Why would you want to tell a business that is doing useful small-business lending in the community that they can only have 10% of that?” he asked.

Another high priority for ACB members, he said, is making thrifts’ trust departments exempt from registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission as broker-dealers. Banks have long had such an exemption.

Edward L. Yingling, the chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, said he would be pleased to see a regulatory-relief bill proposed every year, if only because that would force Congress and bank regulators to think about regulatory burden.

“It is a discipline, if you will, to be constantly looking at regulations and having a debate about where costs can be eliminated that are no longer justified,” he said.

The ABA will ask that Congress consider expanding eligibility for S corporation status beyond the current limit of 75 shareholders. S corporations do not pay corporate income tax; their profits are taxed as income to shareholders.

“This is probably not in this committee’s jurisdiction, but it is important to have it in a package that the Congress as a whole can look at,” Mr. Yingling said.

He also said that his group will ask Congress to update a regulatory-relief provision from 1996 that allowed banks with $250 million of assets or less and a high supervisory rating to be examined every 18 months rather than yearly. The ABA would like to see the $250 million ceiling raised.

Finally, he said, the ABA will ask for an easing of some of the reporting requirements imposed by the Bank Secrecy Act. For instance, banks are currently required to file currency transaction reports with the Treasury Department when a cash deposit of $10,000 or more is made. The ABA wants the limit raised to $50,000 when the depositor is a corporation.

Mr. Yingling and Mr. Davis said that they would also seek numerous minor changes to other regulations.

Other industry representatives, who declined to speak for attribution, said that banks are less interested in general regulatory relief than in specific, high-profile legislative issues, such as reform of the deposit insurance system.

Asked just what sort of change Rep. Oxley has in mind, a spokeswoman for the House Financial Services Committee said Wednesday that it was “too early in the process” to say. “Generally, regulatory relief for financial services companies is something he is interested in, and he asked the regulators for their input,” she said.

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