GATLINBURG - Sevier County bankers sounded off on the economy and financial regulatory reform following remarks Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker at a legislative luncheon here.
Corker, a Republican from Chattanooga, addressed a sold-out audience at the luncheon held at Calhoun's Banquet Hall, which was sponsored by the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. Financial reform and the lack of fiscal discipline in Washington were two hot buttons on Corker's list of topics.
"They talk about 'too big to fail.' We feel like we're too small to see," Sevier County Bank President R. B. Summitt said.
Corker's stop in Gatlinburg was fresh on the heels of a Jefferson County Banker's Forum earlier in the day where he received "an earful" about regulators and "criticisms" of loans being made causing banks to pull back.
"With every recession we have, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we get in a bind (regulators) clamp down on bankers and bankers clamp down even more," Corker told the audience.
Corker, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, has taken a prominent role in the push for financial regulation overhaul, but how financial reform will help community banks remains to be seen.
Summitt believes reform will help down the line but could "be a while."
"The thing that will help us most will be to just give us some time," he said.
Bankers contend that regulators have tightened underwriting during a very difficult time and that has compounded the problem.
"Basically we're being encouraged to slow lending down. And if you slow lending down you're not going to stimulate anything economically," said SmartBank President and CEO William "Billy" Carroll.
Corker was in Knoxville Monday speaking at the University of Tennessee to a group of students, faculty and business leaders.
Corker told the UT audience that he's working on a framework for when large companies fail, including changes to the bankruptcy code and measures that resolve "too big to fail" companies out of business in an orderly way. Corker, who has been sparring with the Obama administration over reform issues, supported another term for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, saying he wanted the person who expanded the Fed's balance sheet to be responsible for unwinding it without creating inflation.