Congress offers relief from financial regulations – Part 2

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Jun 232017

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By G. Steven Bray

Yesterday, we reviewed how the Financial Choice Act, recently passed by the House, would affect banking regulations. Today, we’re going to look at how it would change the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The bill would have three major effects:

– It would change the name of the bureau to the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency and change its mission to enforcing existing consumer financial regulations rather than creating new ones. In this sense, it would function more like other independent federal agencies.

– It would allow Congressional oversight through the appropriations process.

– It would change the leadership from a single, unaccountable director to one who serves at the pleasure of the President.

Democrats seem most exercised about this provision as they view the current untouchable director as a way to maintain their preferred regulatory scheme across presidential administrations.

As I said yesterday, the bill’s fate in the Senate seems dim, but three additional developments offer hope to those favoring change:

– A Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates the Choice Act will reduce the deficit by $33 billion, which makes it possible Republicans could use the reconciliation process to pass reforms with only 51 Senate votes.

– Second, the courts seem poised to decide that the CFPB current structure is unconstitutional, but the final decision still may be a couple years away.

– Finally, it seems likely the CFPB’s current director will resign to run for governor of OH, which would allow President Trump to appoint a reformer to the position.

Congress offers relief from financial regulations – Part 1

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Jun 222017

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By G. Steven Bray

President Trump came to office promising to cut regulations that are stifling job growth, and one of his top targets was the Obama-era Dodd-Frank Act that put tough regulations on consumer lending and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Congressional Republicans recently offered an assist by passing the Financial Choice Act that repeals major aspects of Dodd-Frank. Based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the bill offers regulatory relief to community banks and credit unions in exchange for greater capitalization, which should make them safer. Larger banks are unlikely to meet the capital requirements needed for relief.

Large banks do like provisions of the bill that would streamline and reduce the frequency of exams and that would repeal the Volker Rule. The bill also would classify some loans banks hold in portfolio as “qualified mortgages,” which could loosen up bank lending a bit.

Democrats unanimously oppose the bill, but most of their statements so far have been fear-mongering claims that the bill’s passage will lead to another financial crisis. Given the opposition, the bill’s prospects in the Senate are dim for now. Senate Banking Comm Chair Crapo said the Choice Act is a good starting point, but he will craft his own bill with input from Senate Democrats. However, those favoring major change can be cheered by the fact that the Choice Act stakes out a very strong starting point.

Tomorrow, we’ll dig into how the bill changes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Oh, no! Trump dismantling consumer protection

 Regulations  Comments Off on Oh, no! Trump dismantling consumer protection
Feb 202017

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By G. Steven Bray

Despite the hysterical headlines that President Trump was dismantling consumer financial protections by executive order, the truth is much less exciting.

Trump has called Dodd-Frank, the recession-era law that created the current regulatory structure, a disaster and pledged major reforms. Earlier this month, he ordered his financial team to review the law and develop a plan to overhaul it. This starts a likely many-month process to modify Dodd-Frank and other financial regulations that are stifling lending and driving community banks out of business.

While Trump conceivably could rewrite or reverse some financial regulations once his appointees take charge at various federal agencies, he cannot change statutory rules, such as those enacted through Dodd-Frank, without Congressional action.

Unfortunately for those hoping for quick action, that appears unlikely. While the House already is moving legislation to rewrite the law, Senate Republicans need help from Democrats. Senate Banking Comm Chair Mike Crapo says, “The climate right now in the Senate is as toxic as I’ve ever seen it.” Crapo hopes he can get some Democratic support for changes that will promote lending by easing rules for smaller and community banks.

The eventual changes could be significant, but the pace of change will allow for serious consideration and certainty doesn’t justify the silly headlines.