Expressing concern over three December rulings by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the president of the National Association of Realtors today asked for a meeting with Treasury Secretary John Snow to discuss the rulings.

In a letter to Snow sent today, NAR President Thomas Stevens said Realtorsare “extremely concerned” over three December rulings by the OCC allowing three of the largest national banks in the nation to invest in the development of office buildings, hotels, residential condominiums, and even a windmill farm.

“The inevitable result of the OCC’s actions will be authorization of national banks — and, through “wild card” statutes, many state banks — to become actively involved in real estate development and brokerage activities. We believe such authorization would defy the intent of Congress,” Stevens said in a statement.

NAR’s president said the organization has asked the OCC to reconsider its rulings and is urging Congress to conduct hearings and take action to address the OCC’s continued efforts that, according to Stevens, “breach the wall separating banking and commerce and threaten to destabilize the nation’s banking system.”

Stevens said the OCC’s course of action poses “a significant threat to the safety and soundness of the entire banking system, financial markets, and the U.S. economy.”

According to Stevens, “The savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s and the sluggish Japanese economy, where banks are intertwined with real estate and commercial enterprises, are dramatic examples of the negative consequences of mixing banking and commerce. We do not want to repeat past mistakes, and we should learn from the mistakes of others.”

Stevens also asked Snow to withdraw the 2001 rule proposed by the Federal Reserve Board and Treasury Department that would allow financial holding companies and financial subsidiaries to engage in real estate brokerage and real estate management.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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