Wells' CEO Stumps for Community Bankers: This week marked a BankThink first an op-ed tagged community banking written by the head of one of the nation's largest financial firms. Authored by Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive John Stumpf, it argued that community banks are vital to our way of life. "I'm concerned we're reaching [a] tipping point, especially when it comes to community banks," he wrote. "We need banks of all sizes, but that diversity won't survive if our nation continues down the path of a one-size-fits-all philosophy of regulatory reform."Stumpf's op-ed turned out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, polarizing. Some community bankers welcomed their newest advocate. "Thank you, John Stumpf," one reader commented. "Someone is finally carrying the message of the community banks with a strong voice." Others responded as if Stumpf were an adversary. "How a megabank CEO and a board member of the Financial Services Roundtable thinks he can be a voice for community banking is beyond all comprehension," another commented. A few community bankers took a diplomatic stance. "How is this article anything but good for community banking?" wrote one reader. "I don't doubt that Stumpf's statements are for the benefit of TBTF [too big to fail banks], but that doesn't mean they can't also be to the benefit of the community banking industry."
All Eyes on the Federal Reserve: American Banker Magazine editor in chief Heather Landy offered a unique takeon the ongoing Summers versus Yellen for Fed chair debate by arguing that President Barack Obama doesn't get a pass on women's advancement for nominating Sarah Bloom Raskin to the No. 2 post at Treasury. "Call me when a woman finally gets appointed to be the actual Treasury secretary," she wrote. "Maybe then we'll have a gender story worth talking about. In the meanwhile, I just don't see what's so surprising about deserving women being appointed to reasonably important jobs." Meanwhile, American Banker Editor at Large Barb Rehm took on a Huffington Post article that attributed the Fed's poor morale to its former chairman Alan Greenspan. Rehm suggested Fed Gov. Dan Tarullo was the more likely cause of the problem. "Tarullo has a firm grip on supervision and regulation," she wrote. "Until [he] leaves, don't expect improvement." One reader responded: "Given the Fed's track record with systemic risk management and its current lead role, maybe it needs a bully to get it right."(To see more posts from Barb Rehm, check out her blog at www.americanbanker.com/bankthink/barb-rehm/.)
The Evolving Housing Market: Housing was a particularly hot topic on BankThink this week with several columnists weighing in on various issues affecting the evolving mortgage market. Consumer advocates Mark Whitlock and Robert Gnaizda outlined a six-pronged proposal to better address disparate impact at financial firms. Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, argued that there was more to the bipartisan backing of the Corker-Warner GSE reform bill than meets the eye. "By pretending to treat the guarantee problem as actuarial rather than political, Corker-Warner can garner the support of all the traditional lending and housing lobbies that historically supported Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," he wrote. Meanwhile, Risk Doctor Clifford Rossi argued that the National Community Reinvestment Coalition's call to reassign GSE affordable housing goals to private securitizers ignores important changes in underwriting standards and the nature of federal mortgage guarantees in the conventional conforming market. "We already have a federally supported program for low-income and first-time homebuyers; namely the Federal Housing Administration," he argued. "Redoubling FHA's focus on affordable housing provides a more efficient mechanism to broaden mortgage market access for low- and medium-income borrowers." One reader responded: "It is none of the government's business if I want to make a loan to you or not. The free market trumps all."
Columnist Potpourri: Risk consultant Mayra Rodríguez Valladares continued her Busy Summer in Basel series by arguing that the international banking supervisor would need some help combating money-laundering. Promontory Financial Group CEO Eugene A. Ludwig took a contrarian stance by arguing that regulation will save as opposed to destroy financial innovation. "History tells us that, in the end, these reforms should increase confidence but still allow regulated entities to innovate and prosper, all in support of a stronger economy," he wrote.
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