Regulatory Relief on the Horizon for Community Banks?

A group of Wisconsin bankers on a recent lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., returned with heightened optimism that some of the rules now governing community banks — regulations they contend are too costly — will be eased.

Community banks in Wisconsin and the U.S., defined generally as banks with assets of less than $10 billion, have complained since 2010 that reforms passed by a then-Democrat controlled Congress and aimed at preventing another financial crisis unfairly imposed an expensive compliance burden on them.

They’ve argued that consumers have been affected in the process, too, as banks have stopped offering some services rather than go through the hassle of dealing with the new rules.

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Now that President Donald Trump has told the Treasury secretary to review the 2010 Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and its thousands of regulations, community bankers are hopeful some relief could be on the way.

“I think everyone we have talked to in our Wisconsin delegation, whether they are Democrat or Republican, understands that community banks were not the cause of the problems that occurred in the crisis years, and that the pendulum has swung too far and that the burden is disproportionately heavy on community banks,” said Rose Oswald Poels, who as chief executive of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, led about two dozen community bankers on their trip to the U.S. Capitol in March.

Oswald Poels said Dodd-Frank, as the law is known to bankers, took a “one-size-fits-all” approach to banking reform.

While big banks don’t like the cost of complying with new rules, either, the expense of compliance, form-completion and additional record keeping is more difficult for smaller banks to absorb, she said.

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