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New Bill Aims to Create Appeals Process for Bank Complaints

If a new bill becomes law, it would establish a central appeals hub for financial institutions with concerns about actions taken by bank examiners, corralling the activities of several regulatory agencies for review.

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Reps. ""Shelley Moore Capito"":http://capito.house.gov/ (R-WV) and ""Carolyn Maloney"":http://maloney.house.gov/ (D-NY) recently co-sponsored the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act, or H.R. 3461, which aims to create an Office of Examination Ombudsman responsible for any complaints from financial institutions over the activities of examiners.

""This legislation provides financial institutions with a fair and impartial process to appeal examination reports for federal financial regulators with a fair and impartial process to appeal examination reports for federal financial regulators and providing further clarity to regulators,"" Capito said in a statement.

Language in the bill charges the ombudsman with investigating complaints, managing the appeal workflow, and checking to make sure that examiners stay within the scope of their legal responsibilities.

It would also make the ombudsman a relatively powerful newcomer to the national regulatory scene.

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If the Senate passed a similar measure, then reconciled it with H.R. 3461 in a way that largely leaves it intact, the ombudsman would assume responsibility for an appeals process whose purview includes the personnel from several agencies, including the ""FDIC"":http://www.fdic.gov/, ""Federal Reserve"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/, and ""Consumer Financial Protection Bureau"":http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.

The ombudsman would need to report to several committees once a year, including the ""House Financial Services Committee"":http://financialservices.house.gov/ and ""Senate Banking Committee"":http://banking.senate.gov/public/. The bill requires that it convene meetings open to the public on a quarterly basis.

Trade groups from the banking industry responded enthusiastically to the bill's introduction.

""This bill takes a major step toward a more balanced and transparent approach regarding how, and on what basis, decisions are made by the regulatory agencies in the examination process,"" former Gov. ""Frank Keating"":http://www.aba.com/Press+Room/fkeating_bio.htm (R-Oklahoma), president and CEO of the ""American Bankers Association"":http://www.aba.com/default.htm, said in a statement. ""It also addresses some examiner decisions that have effectively and unnecessarily reduced the amount of capital available for increased lending - particularly to small businesses.

""We strongly urge its enactment, which would increase banks' ability to help local businesses grow and create jobs,"" he added.

Capito noted that the bill stays true to the spirit of several meetings that divulged ""significant concerns about the fairness of the examination process for financial institutions.""

H.R. 3461 follows several hearings by lawmakers concerning the activities of examiners, including a field hearing in Georgia, where some bank leaders complained about the rigor of regulators, and a hearing about the implications of the Dodd-Frank Act more recently.

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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