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Community banks push back on mortgage market reforms

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Community bank leaders warned a House Financial Services Committee Wednesday about the risks their institutions face from excessive Wall Street regulation. The Independent Community Bankers of America said thousands of smaller banks could be chased out of the mortgage market if lawmakers end up redefining the qualified residential mortgage too narrowly, leaving the ball in the court of large banks. ICBA said in a statement that "regulators should exempt portfolio loans held by banks with assets of less than $10 billion from a new requirement that first-lien mortgage lenders establish escrow accounts for the payment of taxes and insurance." Without an exemption, it's feared smaller banks will not have the mechanisms to compete. Bankers who gave testimony said increased regulation is another concern since smaller players with smaller capital reserves lack the funds to hire compliance staff for the handling of new regulations. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) warned the panel that "we are regulating ourselves out of the recovery." Albert Kelly Jr., chairman-elect of the American Bankers Association and CEO of SpiritBank, agreed, saying "managing the anomaly of regulation" is overwhelming for a bank that has only 37 employees. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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