The Main Street Coalition, last seen in 1991, is reemerging to take on an amendment to the regulatory relief bill that would allow banks and insurance companies to affiliate.

The revived group, which counts the Independent Bankers Association of America, the Independent Insurance Agents of America, and the National Grange among its members, said in a July 24 letter to House members that the legislation is nothing but "Wall Street welfare."

"Small business people and consumers will become outsiders in their own hometowns," the group wrote about the provision, which was sponsored by Rep. Richard Baker, R-La.

"It's going to be difficult for a member of Congress to decide against" small-business interests, said Ron Ence, IBAA director of legislative affairs.

But the coalition won't go unchallenged. A group of nine financial services industry trade groups, including the American Bankers Association and the Securities Industry Association, held a press conference Monday to announce the formation of the Alliance for Industry Modernization.

"You may have had the Main Street Coalition in '91, but what you didn't have was this alliance on the other side," said Sam Baptista, president of the Financial Services Council, one of the groups in the alliance.

The umbrella group's theme is the need for affiliations between all financial services providers, Mr. Baptista added.

Yet another group weighed in this month with a letter about the regulatory relief bill, this time criticizing an amendment that stifles the ability of the Comptroller's office to expand national banks' insurance powers.

The Financial Institutions Insurance Association, a trade group for banks and thrifts interested in insurance brokerage, said the comptroller freeze just doesn't jibe with the GOP's "Contract with America."

"Giving monopoly privileges to traditional insurance agencies by denying banks insurance powers ... undermines the Contract's call for 'open, simultaneous, and immediate competition within all industries in the United States,' " wrote Michael D. White, managing director of the insurance group, in a letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

He added that between May 26 and June 23, members of his group bombarded Congress with more than 25,000 letters complaining about the provision.

Some ABA members were a bit surprised by the group's decision to consider chipping in to rescue the Savings Association Insurance Fund, according to an industry source.

"The dues letter said 'Look how much money we saved you by not chipping in on SAIF,' then, the same day, the ABA letter to (FDIC Chairman Ricki) Helfer came out saying 'We concede and will help with SAIF," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

A number of big banks were pretty unhappy, the source said.

ABA chief lobbyist Edward L. Yingling said he had not seen the final draft of the letter, but that it "indicated that we still have a long road ahead, and it talked primarily about the premium decrease."

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