A trade group representing bank boards says directors have become "overwhelmed" by rules and regulations and is urging banking agencies and Congress to quickly take steps to ease their burden.

In a 177-page report released Wednesday, the American Association of Bank Directors identified more than 800 federal regulatory and legislative provisions affecting bank boards that have accumulated over the past few decades. That is not including individual state provisions that might affect directors at state-chartered banks or any regulations imposed on new directors of banks placed under enforcement orders.

David Baris, the trade group's executive director and the report's lead author, said that many of the provisions are not only redundant, they impose management-like responsibilities on directors that often distract them from their main duty of ensuring safety and soundness. Most directors are not professional bankers, yet because of the shear volume of regulations they are getting caught up in "minutia and duties that typically should be left to management," he wrote.

"It is evident that no one — not Congress and not the federal banking agencies — is evaluating the aggregate effect that the legislative and regulatory actions are having on the duties and responsibilities of directors," Baris wrote. "Bank directors are entitled to exercise their business judgment in good faith, delegate duties to management, and reasonably rely on such management. One would never know that by reading the voluminous admonishments and directives" compiled in the report.

The banks directors' group prepared the report in response to President Obama's initiatives to identify and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the private sector.

Baris said in an interview Thursday that he was planning to send letters and copies of report to all heads of the banking agencies as well as the leadership of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committee.

The goal, he said, is for policymakers to streamline the regulations affecting directors and organize what he views as a mishmash of rules in such a way that they are easy to find and help directors prioritize their responsibilities.

Baris said his group is asking agencies to immediately develop a process for determining which rules should be retained and which should be discarded and then present their findings to Congress. In the report, Baris also urged Congress to hold hearings on the issue later this year.

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