Sweeping plans of the U.S. Treasury Department, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) were recently unveiled that would shake up the regulatory financial framework of the country and if implemented, would fulfill the wish list of big businesses on Wall Street.
There are over 100 suggested changes in the almost 150-page report. The majority of these changes were made via regulators, not Congress as pointed out in an interview with Steven Mnuchin Treasury Secretary. He said what they were focused on can be done via executive orders and by way of regulators. He mentioned that 80% of the report’s substance can be achieved through regulatory changes and the other 20% via legislation.
President Trump has been slowly nominating various leaders of financial institutions to fulfill his agenda, but so far only Mnuchin and Jay Clayton the Exchange Commission Chairman have Congressional approval. Many agencies are operating with “acting” heads or have leaders that were appointed during the Obama administration.
Some of the changes the Treasury Department would like to implement include reducing restrictions that big banks currently have to deal with, like trading operations, minimizing the yearly stress test they have to do and reducing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) powers, which have been the watchdog of financial institutions and attacking their bad behavior.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council will have increased power under the plan and is chaired by Mnuchin. The plan will also change the implementation of global capital standards in a way that would give U.S. banks an advantage over foreign banks. There will be some relief for smaller banks too. There will be fewer regulatory hoops for lenders with assets under $50 billion, which are much fewer regulations than the multi trillion dollar financial institutions.
The industry has been seeking a number of the proposed changes and they would be advantageous to banks like Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), Citigroup Inc. (C.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS.N).
On Monday evening, industry trade groups were very happy with the proposal, although some were looking for more answers to specific complex questions like the level regulators need to set for a bank’s assets prior to imposing stricter rules on them.
Senior counsel for regulatory and legal affairs at the trade group Financial Services Roundtable Rich Foster said that it has been a while since those who have the power to make decisions are hearing their concerns.
There hasn’t been any comment from the six biggest U.S. banks. There was no immediate response and they have not said if they are looking at the document in any detail.
Democratic lawmakers and reform advocates have quickly criticized the plan to give handouts to Wall Street. They said it is dangerous for U.S. consumers who lost their jobs and homes during the financial crisis from 2007-2009.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic Senator and Wall Street critic said that the plan would make it simpler for large financial institutions to abuse their customers and could lead to another financial crisis. Sherrod Brown also a Democratic Senator stated that as the report was being developed, the Treasury was in consultation with industry groups and consumer groups at a rate of 17:1.
Lisa Donner, Americans for Financial Reform Executive Director, said that the proposal by the Treasury advances ideas that industry lobbyists have pushed for since the passing of Dodd-Frank. She said that more effective enforcement and regulations were needed not less regulation driven by predatory lenders and Wall Street.
Mnuchin said that in order for the economy to grow, the regulatory overhaul is required which will give more choice to consumers and guarantee that the U.S. taxpayers will not need to rescue big banks yet again. Although the Trump administration wants to protect consumers as it said before, the current rules limit their ability to get loans and other investment products consumers are interested in.
The Trump administration is looking to avoid long and perhaps a futile fight with Democratic lawmakers by making the changes via regulatory agencies.
Even though Republicans control the Congress and the White House, Senate Democrats are still able to hinder legislation and are not likely to be in favor of an overhaul that relaxes rules for the big banks. A number of the Treasury proposals face an uphill battle such as taking power away from the CFPB which requires rewriting existing laws.
This particular report focused on banks but is only the first of four examinations that the Treasury Department is carrying out after Trump declared that he will do a “big number” to the reform laws of Dodd-Frank. Other proposals that are coming at a later date include capital markets, derivatives, clearing houses, asset management and insurance industries, banking technology and financial innovation.