Prior to leaving town, the U.S. Senate passed — and President Barack Obama signed — two bills of tremendous importance to banks. The first was H.R. 4014, introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich. This bill remedies an oversight in the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA). As background, when DFA created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it gave the bureau powers commensurate with the federal bank regulators, but omitted language that would require the CFPB to protect the privileged information it accesses as a result of those powers. Fortunately H.R. 4014 fixes this problem by making CFPB adhere to the same protection of privileged information required of the other federal bank regulators.
The second bill, authored by former community banker Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., repeals the law that mandated that all automated teller machines attach a placard, indicating that a fee may be charged. Other laws have since been passed that require the same disclosure on the ATM screen, rendering the placard language redundant. Unfortunately the placard language was not repealed at the time that the electronic disclosure requirement was implemented. In the interim, several banks were victimized by opportunists who removed the placard, took a picture of the ATM absent the placard, and then sued the bank for an alleged violation. These frivolous lawsuits will no longer occur.
We thank all those who worked during the lame duck session of Congress to pass these two important bills, and the president for signing them into law. No doubt many more issues will challenge bankers in this New Year, and likely bankers will be overwhelmed by the next rollout of DFA rules, many of which will affect community banks negatively. Yet overall bank earnings improved in 2012, and we hope that bankers sustain the gains of last year to ameliorate the upcoming compliance burden.
I believe that better days lie ahead for banks, once the DFA regulations are learned and systematized. The year 2013 will be transitional for banks, which remain at the cornerstone of the economy. I am optimistic that banks will prevail in the New Year and beyond, and we at the IBA look forward to doing our part to help. Happy New Year!