NY bank superintendent Neiman calls for CRA overhaul
Richard Neiman, the superintendent of banks for the state of New York, said he wants to bring the lending regulations under the Community Reinvestment Act up-to-date for borrowers still struggling in the foreclosure crisis. Speaking at the Wolters Kluwer CRA & Fair Lending conference in Las Vegas Tuesday, Neiman, who also serves on the Congressional Oversight Panel said federal agencies are considering a CRA revision, and he would like to see changes to how institutions are rated and what mortgage performance numbers are reported. "The first step is to modernize the CRA, to restore what was and is a great legislative tool from the somewhat static approach to implementation that has inevitably developed over time," Nieman said. "Even with the best of intentions, the regulatory process and quantitative examination ratings can lead to a 'check-the-box' compliance mindset." According to Nieman, 85% to 90% of banks receive a "satisfactory" rating under the current system. This, he said, provides little value the differentiate bank performance, and a new system should take into account product risk and financial education. He also called on banks to serve a wider geographic area and reach into more rural communities, but he also stressed the importance of restoring trust and confidence that the financial crisis badly shook. "A consistent concern expressed by all stakeholders- including industry, government, community groups, academics, and other policy makers- is that complete information on existing mortgage loans is simply not available," Neiman said. Neiman took over his post just as the subprime loans began to sour, and much of his performance has been based on the response. After neighborhoods were devastated by the crisis, Neiman said the pendulum has swung too far back, shutting out the most affected areas from credit. "We should not accept a false choice between predatory credit and no credit," Neiman said. "Fair lending and CRA professionals working together and combining the insights of their respective disciplines can help ensure we have access to credit that is safe and affordable." Write to Jon Prior.