By Collin Reischman
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Finance law might be a little technical for the “average Joe” to understand, but with new state and federal legislation responding to the 2008 financial crisis taking effect, the Missouri Bankers Association is as busy as ever.
Bill Ratliff, executive vice president and chief lobbyist for the MBA, said new legislation from Washington has given the organization plenty to keep busy with.
“Many of our members are just overwhelmed by new federal banking laws and regulations,” Ratliff told The Missouri Times. “They are spending more and more of their resources reading and implementing new laws and regulations, and we go to these banks to help make sure they are in compliance.”
Ratliff said the new regulations are so expansive, many of their member banks have as many full-time compliance specialists as they do lending specialists. Of the 32 full-time MBA employees, five devote all of their time to compliance work, he said.
As a leading advocate for Missouri banks on the state and federal level, the MBA provides legislative advocacy, insurance products, and even educational services to more than 320 members. New federal regulations and increased public attention on banking policy had made the MBA as visible as ever.
“In January of 2014, 3,500 pages of new mortgage regulations are going into affect for most lenders,” Ratliff said. “There is something called ‘loss mitigation.’ It requires a bank to contact people if they are late on house payments, it requires them to send information and try to stop foreclosure in advance. It’s a huge federal requirement for our lenders and, to us, it represents a duplication of efforts and something that is just not necessary, so we’ll focus on trying to help our members comply with that and continue to advocate for them.”
Currently, the MBA has its eyes on House Bill 446 and Senate Bill 211. The two pieces of legislation are a response to new policies adopted by St. Louis City and St. Louis County requiring banks to offer mandatory mediation prior to the foreclosure of residential properties. Ratliff said local municipalities shouldn’t be able to write their own banking regulations, and that deeds and mortgages should be handled on the state level.
The MBA has filed a suit against both the city and county, but the legislation would make the suit unnecessary. Ratliff said the MBA would try “every avenue” to fix what they see as a discrepancy.
“We just can’t expect banks to comply with a different policy or regulation that changes from county to county or city to city,” Ratliff said. “It’s not practical and it’s not doable, and we think state law should prevail.”
And while bankers haven’t always been popular during the last 5 years, Ratliff said most of their members weren’t involved in the sub-prime loan crisis, and that bankers, like congressmen, get painted with the same brush.
“Lots of people don’t like Congress, but they like their congressman,” Ratliff said. “That’s how many of them feel about bankers. They catch a lot of flack on the national level, but most people like their local banker or their local bank.”
To contact Collin Reischman, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter at @Collin_MOTimes.