Dealers: Act now on financial reform bill

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It’s a common event these days – Congress taking on some massive overhaul of something. This time it’s the Senate, about to take up the financial reform bill (S.B. 3217) sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd. Media coverage of this bill has focused on regulating Wall Street and the financial services industry but passage, as drafted, could create major problems for boat dealers and our customers. So, this is a call for dealers, employees and, for that matter, everyone in this industry to take action right now. Here’s the short look:

S.B. 3217 would create a Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection with new and extremely broad authority to regulate almost all "financial products." That will include dealer-assisted financing and make dealers subject to onerous new reporting, accounting and other regulatory requirements as if we were banks. This will be true even though the banks originating boat loans will be regulated anyway. We need to be exempted from this and it is possible, but only if we all act immediately.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, is set to offer an amendment that would exempt only auto dealers from the BCFP. However, the senator has indicated he’s willing to expand his amendment to include marine and RV dealers IF a Democratic Senator makes this request and co-sponsors the amendment.

That clearly puts the ball in our court. It means we must now initiate contact with our senators and ask them to (1) request Sen. Brownback add marine dealers to his amendment, and (2) urge them to become a co-sponsor of the Brownback Amendment.

We need to emphasize: (1) Marine dealers should be exempt because, just like auto dealers, we do not originate loans, the banks do. Dealers merely assist qualified consumers in securing financing. Banks will still regulate these loans, and lending standards will, therefore, remain high; and (2) We are small businesses and, as such, will not be able to handle the onerous new paperwork and unnecessary reporting requirements, or the intervention of BCFP regulators into our businesses. Also tell them the focus of the financial reform bill should be on the real culprits of the economic collapse, not small businesses like yours who are just trying to survive it.

UPDATE: Time is running out. Here’s the status as of last night: Amendments will likely begin today. According to Mathew Dunn, NMMA legislative director, there is now Democratic support for an unmodified Brownback Amendment, which applies exclusively to auto dealers. It means there’s now high risk the amendment could go forward without including marine dealers. Still, Sen. Brownback indicates the door is not closed on expanding his amendment. WE MUST ACT NOW!

The fastest way is to call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask for your senators. Simply tell whoever in your Senator’s office you’re connected to that you’re asking your senator to please call Sen. Brownback and request he expand his amendment to include you as a boat dealer. And, ask your senator to co-sponsor it with Sen. Brownback if he isn’t already doing so. This is particularly important if your senator(s) is a Democrat. But, it won’t happen if you don’t help.

Since large numbers of boat sales involve financing, we must preserve dealer-assisted financing by expanding the Brownback Amendment. Make your calls right now, please.

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