A familiar theme emerged from a high-powered panel this morning at the Office of Thrift Supervision´s National Housing Forum. Two more regulators took the time to defend the Community Reinvestment Act against criticisms that it caused the subprime crisis.
"I´ve heard that some folks are pointing to the CRA," said John Reich, the director of the OTS, in his introductory speech on a panel of regulators. "I´m here to say that I do not believe that for a second.
"The CRA has absolutely nothing to do with the mortgage crisis," he added. "If it did, then community banks would be at the epicenter of this crisis, and they´re not."
Next to speak on the panel was Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair. She also put in a good word for the Act.
"It really is a myth," Ms. Bair said of the idea that the CRA was to blame. "It´s very unfortunate that it´s out there."
Ms. Bair and Mr. Reich were the first two speakers on a five-person power-panel of regulators-down the line was Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, an outspoken CRA fan who quickly thanked his two colleagues for their support.
Does this render some sort of symbolism to the absence of endorsements of the CRA by Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, sitting next to Mr. Dugan, and beside him, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart? It was hard to tell. In The case of Mr. Lockhart, the answer matters little; he´ll be replaced soon. Mr. Kohn´s colleague on the Fed board, Randall Kroszner, last week endorsed the CRA directly, so Mr. Kohn´s silence seemed more significant.
Later in the day, Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, raised the point again. He thanked Ms. Bair and the others who had defended the act and added that he thought the CRA should be expanded during the coming Congressional session. Rep. Frank has long advocated placing CRA-type requirements on non-bank entities.