WASHINGTON -- The Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee said Monday that regulators should require annual independent audits for community banks - rather than abolish the requirement for small thrifts, as one agency has proposed.
The panel, in its quarterly meeting, also opposed a proposed increase in the size of loans the Federal Housing Administration insures, and said it would oppose boosting the s'ne of loans government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy.
The Office of Thrift Supervision has proposed bringing its audit rules in line with those that apply to commercial banks. It would except thrifts with less than $ 500 million in assets from its requirement that all savings and loans have annual, independent audits.
But the shadow committee said, "Consistency would be better achieved by requiring independent audits of all commercial banks."
There are 2,000 thrifts with assets under $500 million. The 10,344 commercial banks with less than $500 million in assets are not now required to have annual, independent audits.
Audit Seen Imposing Cost
"An audit of the financial statements and internal controls imposes a cost of doing business for a bank, as it is for other corporations to which the public has entrusted its funds," the committee said in a statement. "However, in the absence of an independent audit, the cost would be borne by the examiners and the insurance fund."
The Independence Bankers Association of America opposed the shasdow committee's recommendation that bank regulators require annual, independent audits for all commercial banks.
"We strongly disagree with them," said IBAA executive director Diane Casey. "You have to weigh the costs of the regulations you are imposing on the industry with the benefits you are giving tot he financial system."
Smaller institutions "are less likely to have a sophisticated internal audit function in place and are less likely to have a highly knowledgeable and independent board of directors' audit committee," said the shadow committee, which comprises an indepnedndent group of lawyers and academics that meets quarterly to review current issues in banking and financial services regulation.
The thrift trade group said it wants banks and thrifts to receive the same treatment. "We recognize there is a strong value to an annual independent audit," said Gary Gilbert, a regulatory specialist with the Savings and Community Bankers of America.
He insisted that for SCBA, the most issue is whether the roles are the same for banks and thrifts, not what the audit rule says. "You have to give the savings associations the same flexibility banks have."
Separately, the shadow committee said it is lobbying the Office of Thrift Supervison and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to require mututal thrifts selling stock for the first time to give their depositors transferable subscriptin rights.
Rules Change Urged
When the committee last met on Valentine's Day, it urged the agency and the FDIC to change current rules to allow transferable rights. The agency has since, put in place an interim final rule that rejects the shadow committee' s approach.
The committee released on Monday its comment letter to the agency on the matter, and George G. Kaufman. the panel's co-chairman and a Loyola University of Chicago professor, said, "We hope they will change their minds."
The committee also sent a letter to the FDIC, which is roughly following the new agency rules for pending deals while it ponders a new rule that would include the transferable stock rights.