Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
ICBA has long had the reputation of standing on principle while others swim with the current. It is a Jeffersonian ideal of which we are proud.
There are some folks who want to cling to the status quo just like a dog that gets a great bone and doesn’t want to let it go. Those intent on opposing financial reform in any form for any reason are willing to ignore several landmark community bank successes in order to howl over a single shinbone. What they really want is to hold on to the status quo—to maintain the current advantages given to megabanks and nonbank financial firms. And we’ve all seen too clearly where the status quo has led us.
But what really gets me worked up is that these “status quo” seekers aren’t telling the whole story. Any landmark financial reform legislation that passes Congress will be huge, complex and, ultimately, imperfect to one degree or another. Does ICBA think that the House financial-regulatory-reform bill (H.R. 4173) is a perfect bill? No, we don’t—and we never did. H.R. 4173 will not be the final financial reform bill that is eventually signed into law, and everyone in Washington knows that and has known that for months.
So ICBA is fighting to keep the considerable gains we earned in the House bill while blocking provisions in any final reform bill that would be burdensome or harmful to community banks.
Remember H.R. 2897, better known as the Gutierrez bill? H.R. 2897, formally titled “The Bank Accountability and Risk Assessment Act of 2009,” was introduced in the House last spring. It was a pure community bank-friendly bill that would bring fairness and parity to the FDIC assessment system for more than 99 percent of the nation’s community banks by shifting hundreds of millions of dollars in FDIC assessment fees off of community banks.
ICBA worked closely with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the bill’s principal sponsor. ICBA was the ONLY national trade association to embrace H.R. 2897. All other national (and some state) financial trade groups either worked hard against it or sat mute (quietly cautioning Congress not to embrace it). In fact, those representing megabanks said Gutierrez was dead and would go nowhere.
Well, guess what. Good old H.R. 2897 was rolled into H.R. 4173, along with eight other stand-alone bills, to become part of the financial-reform bill that the House passed in December. (H.R. 4173 was created as an omnibus bill just days before the final vote as a way to pass several stand-alone bills simultaneously.) So H.R. 2897 lives on with several very powerful pro-community bank provisions that will save or earn thousands of community banks bottom-line dollars.
And as that bill reminds us, this once-in-a-generation financial-reform legislation is not and will not be about any one single issue, and it does not consist of one piece or provision. It’s a massive bill with many components.
ICBA has not endorsed any final financial reform bill. But remember that ICBA is the only national voice in Washington fighting exclusively for community banks. That’s important.