Tag Archives: bankers

Banking Commish Travels on Banker Money

State Financial Institutions Commissioner Greg Gonzales has made 14 out-of-state trips in the past 18 months, receiving about $14,000 in reimbursement for his travel expenses from a department budget financed by the businesses it regulates.
The trips, Gonzales says, are for keeping open lines of communication with other state banking regulators, federal officials and officials in the lending business.
“The more dialogue we can have in the industry, the better, I think,” he said in an interview. “Dialogue is just the key… given the complexity of the regulatory environment and the way it is changing.”
The commissioner, who has held the same position under both former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and current Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, also said that it is inappropriate to state – as the News Sentinel did in a recent overview of gubernatorial cabinet travel – that his trips are at taxpayer expense.
The Department of Financial Institutions develops a budget that is subject to approval of the governor and the General Assembly, as with the rest of state government. But unlike the others, the department then makes an “assessment” of state banks to cover the cost of oversight activities, including audits, during the year. Other regulated industries – credit unions and so-called “payday” lenders, for example – also pay fees intended to cover their share of regulating costs.
“We are self-funding,” he said of the department budget, which is about $8.5 million this year. “It’s not taxpayer dollars.”
But Dick Williams, chairman of Common Cause of Tennessee, both as to frequency – he wonders if there is duplication of information or “overlap in content value” at the various conferences – and the general nature of the arrangement.
“The fact that it’s not direct taxpayer monhy is kind of fungible,” he said. “Anything charge to a bank ultimately gets back to be charged to its customers. It’s not like it’s free money.”
“If state government is looking to a top-to-bottom review on expenses, they ought to look at regulatory fees, too, in addition to direct taxpayer money,” he said. “And maybe he ought to go visit some groups of consumers, too, not only the people who run the banks… to hear the other side of the story.”

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Fighting Over Foreclosure Notices

Legislation to cut back on the number and length of home foreclosure legal notices now required in Tennessee is being pushed by bankers who stand to save money if the bill passes and opposed by newspapers that stand to lose money.
While that is clear, the two sides – both aided by a contingent of lobbyists – clashed sharply over whether the proposed change would benefit financially strapped homeowners and the general public as the bill advanced in the House last week.
As drafted and introduced at the behest of the Tennessee Bankers Association, HB1920 would require that just one notice of a pending foreclosure be published in a newspaper based in the county where the property is located.
Current law requires three notices. That has been the case for more than 125 years in Tennessee, according to Steve Baker, a Nashville foreclosure attorney who testified before committee in support of sticking with the “tried and true” three-time publication rule.
The bill was amended in committee last week to set the number of required notices at two, a move that sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, characterized as “compromising with ourselves.”
The full News Sentinel story is HERE.