MARCO ISLAND, Fla. - In a sign that a bureaucratic turf war may be under way, a senior bank regulator expressed serious reservations about rules securities regulators have proposed for bank brokerages.
The official, David P. Apgar, senior policy adviser to the comptroller of the currency, said that some of the rules proposed by the National Association of Securities Dealers are ill-conceived, and needlessly contradict guidelines federal bank regulators issued early last year.
"The proposed NASD rules disturb us," Mr. Apgar said, in a presentation at a bank mutual fund conference here.
Officials at the NASD, a self-regulatory association for broker-dealers, say the proposals would lessen the chance that investors will be confused about the differences between bank products and investment products offered by brokerages. Federal bank regulators have also attempted to address the issue with joint examination guidelines issued last year.
In an interview after his speech, Mr. Apgar said he was disappointed that the NASD had not chosen to follow the joint guidelines when preparing its proposals. That the securities regulators took a different tack appears to show either "disrespect" of bank regulators' efforts, or a "me-tooism that is silly," he said.
The proposed NASD rules would have to be approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and could be changed. In his speech, Mr. Apgar made it clear that the Comptroller's office favors modification, mainly to eliminate differences with the federal guidelines.
For example, Mr. Apgar said that one of the proposed NASD rules, which would restrict the use of so-called confidential information about bank customers, was misguided.
The rule would appear to prohibit bank-affiliated brokers from using information about bank customers' deposits and loans to sell investments. But Mr. Apgar said the NASD doesn't make clear what confidential bank customer information is.
He added that bank customers actually expect bank brokers to have access to basic information about their banking services. Furthermore, a prohibition on the use of bank customer information by brokers would be unfair, since nonbank brokerages are free to supply their brokers with information about their customers' uses of banklike services, including purchases of certificates of deposit and use of investment accounts with check-writing privileges, he said.
Bank regulators, by contrast, ask banks to establish reasonable policies governing the use of customer information, and give bank examiners leeway in determining what is reasonable, Mr. Apgar said. He maintained that this approach was better than the ban on information sharing that the NASD proposed.
Mr. Apgar also said that a proposed NASD prohibition on the use of bank names in bank brokerage marketing materials "appears to be overkill." For example, the rule would appear to bar bank brokerages from listing the names of banks that manage mutual funds. But the rule would not bar banks from listing the names of nonbanks that manage mutual funds, he said.
Bank regulators do not have such a prohibition.
Mr. Apgar also said that a proposed rule that would prohibit banks from consolidating bank account and brokerage account information on customer statements did not have the best interests of consumers in mind. Consumers are getting too many statements as it is, and would prefer to have information consolidated onto fewer statements, he said. The banking guidelines allow banks to do this.
Mr. Apgar explained that his speech was intended to be part of an informal dialogue, and not a detailed elaboration of the comptroller's views.
But Mr. Apgar said that the Comptroller's office made its concerns known to the NASD during the public comment period for the proposed rules, which ended Wednesday. He also said he thought it was unlikely that the bank regulators and the securities regulators will be able to agree on identical rules.