Northwestern Press

Monday, May 21, 2018
PRESS PHOTOS BY STEPHEN ALTHOUSERobert Heintzelman, Troy Peters and Nick DiFrancesco arrive May 11 at The Neffs National Bank for a stop on the Rolling for Repeal motorcycle tour. PRESS PHOTOS BY STEPHEN ALTHOUSERobert Heintzelman, Troy Peters and Nick DiFrancesco arrive May 11 at The Neffs National Bank for a stop on the Rolling for Repeal motorcycle tour.
Troy Peters and Nick DiFrancesco say too many regulations and compliance issues in the Dodd-Frank law are hurting community banks across Pennsylvania. Troy Peters and Nick DiFrancesco say too many regulations and compliance issues in the Dodd-Frank law are hurting community banks across Pennsylvania.

Biker-bankers seek to reform Dodd-Frank

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 by STEPHEN ALTHOUSE Special to The Press in Local News

Does Dodd-Frank protect the public or hurt it?

Three men on motorcycles — who also are community bankers — say when it comes to community banking, it’s definitely the latter.

Adorned on their choppers, a trio of lenders roared into the tranquil parking lot of The Neffs National Bank, Neffs on May 11, as part of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers’ Rolling for Repeal motorcycle tour.

While the stunt was meant to garner attention, their message was devoid of gimmicks.

The bankers — Robert Heintzelman, on the board of The Neffs National Bank, Troy Peters, president and chief executive officer of Jonestown Bank and Trust Co. and chairman of PAC; and Nick DiFrancesco, president and CEO of the PACB; — claim Dodd-Frank keeps community banks from writing small business and home loans.

They say this is due to the act’s overzealous litany of regulations, which is making it laborious for these financial institutions not only to write new loans, but even to keep open their doors.

The Wall Street Reform and Regulation Act of 2009 — known better as Dodd-Frank — was designed in part to allow banks not to become “too big to fail.”

The banking industry’s gamble on unmitigated risk blew up like a keg of dynamite in 2008.

The explosion rained down an economic collapse the likes of which the American economy had not seen since the Great Depression.

Only when the federal government bailed out many of the banks for the good of the country, did the economy slowly stabilize.

But what’s good for Wall Street, isn’t always good for Main Street, the community bankers argued.

“We understand Wall Street needs to be regulated,” said DiFrancesco. “But the act is too focused on Wall Street.”

This focus is to the detriment of smaller, more community-focused lending and banking institutions.

The onerous regulations and compliance costs of Dodd-Frank have all but crushed community banks, he said.

That expense is forcing community banks to seek partners for strategic mergers.

Thus, there are fewer local branches to serve communities such as Neffs, DiFrancesco argued.

Peters said thanks to Dodd-Frank, community banks in Pennsylvania are becoming like the Bornean orangutan — nearly extinct.

“There used to be 14 community banks in Lebanon County,” he said. “Now there is only one.”

PACB members at Neffs said they were proponents of Senate Bill 2155. While not ideal, in DiFrancesco’s estimation, the legislation moves in the right direction by rolling back many of the Dodd-Frank regulations that have placed “an undue burden on community banks,” according to Marta Gabriel, regional manager, Lehigh Valley, for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Community banks, DiFrancesco and Peters said, are the best vehicles to drive the lending needs of their individual communities.

“We are being hampered from doing that,” said Peters.