Magazine article American Banker

A Violation Is a Violation in the OCC's Opinion, but Lawyer Advises Focusing on Hottest Issues

Magazine article American Banker

A Violation Is a Violation in the OCC's Opinion, but Lawyer Advises Focusing on Hottest Issues

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- "What's the difference between a terrorist and a bank examiner?" asked Rick Freer, director of compliance management at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

"A terrorist negotiates," he told delegates attending Monday's Consumer Bankers Association home equity lending conference here.

Faced with stricter and more complex regulations, bankers are looking to people like Mr. Freer for straightforward answers to questions like, "How can we best comply?" But he admits there are no easy answers.

While there may be gray areas in the law itself, a violation is a simply a violation, he said.

Says Discrimination Is Assumed

Banks are given an opportunity to present any mitigating circumstances, Mr. Freer said. But that doesn't always help. He used the example of a bank that is accused of lending discrimination by the Comptroller's Office. The institution, he said, is given time to explain why it rejected borrowers who appear to have been turned down on the basis of race, sex, or some other factor. If the bank is unable to provide a satisfactory answer, he said, the Comptroller's office assumes that discrimination has occurred and refers the case to either the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Justice Department.

The problem, said Mr. Freer, is that "as bankers, you don't have any more of an idea how to find illegal discrimination than we do."

So what can banks concentrate on to assure compliance with these laws in the future? …

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