- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005


Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday that the cost of anti-terror rules and other banking regulations must be weighed against their benefits.

“We are particularly aware that changes in regulations, even if intended to lighten burden or to reflect new market realities, carry new costs that must be evaluated,” Mr. Greenspan said in prepared remarks delivered via satellite to the Independent Community Bankers of America meeting in San Antonio.

A copy of his remarks was distributed in Washington.

One of the regulations that banks are grappling with is the need to file reports to regulators involving suspicious financial transactions. These suspicious activity reports, or SAR, took on heightened importance after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

For banks, uncertainty can arise because they have to make judgment calls about what is a dubious financial transaction.

To help, banking agencies are in the process of developing guidelines aimed at providing “uniform direction on SAR filing requirements,” Mr. Greenspan said.

“All of us want the system to work, including the bankers who want to do their part in curbing criminal and terrorist activities,” the Fed chief said.

The Fed also has been examining the competitive implications of proposed international capital requirements for banks, known as Basel II, he said. Mr. Greenspan said this summer the banking agencies may propose some revisions to “mitigate any unintended and undesired competitive distortions.”

Mr. Greenspan did not discuss the future course of interest rates in the United States.

Federal Reserve policy-makers have boosted short-term interest rates six times — each a one-quarter point move — since June 2004. Economists widely expect another increase of that size when the Fed meets next on March 22.

In a speech Thursday, Mr. Greenspan suggested the United States’ flexible economy will be able to deal with current concerns over foreign trade and Americans’ low rate of savings. But he warned that future budget deficits pose a bigger risk to the economy.

“The resolution of our current account deficit and household debt burdens does not strike me as overly worrisome, but that is certainly not the case for our fiscal deficit,” Mr. Greenspan said in prepared remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Mr. Greenspan said the budget deficit is a problem because it is projected to rise significantly as a wave of baby boomers start to retire in 2008.

“Our fiscal prospects are, in my judgment, a significant obstacle to long-term stability,” said Mr. Greenspan, who has been steadily beating the drum about the urgent need to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.

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