Thursday, July 9, 2009

President Obama's Financial Regulation Proposal - Part IV

A smart businesswoman in the Portland area asked for a synopsis of this proposal, saying, "It seems like everywhere we read doom and gloom doom and gloom. I would like to read some kind of balanced piece for once." Thanks for the suggestion, Kelly. Parts I, II and III of the proposal were discussed in the two previous posts. Here's the third installment.

Creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency

The seven government agencies named in the prior post did not prevent or address financial problems adequately during the recent crisis. The administration has proposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency as one solution. The creation of this agency was discussed in the prior post. In addition to this agency, the administration also seeks to create "resolution regime" for failing Bank Holding Companies and so-called "Tier 1" (too big to fail) Financial Holding Companies.

Resolution Regime

This "regime" will be led by the Treasury Department, and can act only after
  • consulting with the President, and
  • having obtained the approval of 2/3 of the Fed board, and 2/3 of the FDIC board (if the failing institution is a bank) or 2/3 of the SEC commissioners (if the failing institution is a brokerage firm)

This, with the previously discussed increased capital requirements for "too big to fail" financial institutions, is the solution proposed to avoid situations like those seen recently with AIG and Bear Stearns. Again, the Treasury is the "big boss" when institutions that are large enough to cause widespread financial harm are seen to have significant developing problems.

As the "big boss," the Treasury now must approve loans made by the Fed to such institutions.

Where's the doom and gloom?

MORE Power for the Treasury?

Many people, as discussed before, are uncomfortable with the Treasury Department in the position as the "regulator's regulator." Now, the Fed has to consult with Treasury prior to authorize lending practices related to "too big to fail" institutions.

In reality, the Treasury Secretary was consulted in every instance when action was recently taken by the Fed. This provision makes that practice mandatory.

More Power for the President?

The Treasury must consult with the President before initiating the resolution regime for failing institutions. Some worry that the President may take the initiative and pressure Treasury to take such action. Those who make such accusations fail, in my opinion, to consider that 2/3 of the Fed board and 2/3 of either the FDIC board or SEC commissioners must also approve taking such action. The checks and balances, in this case, seem to be in place to assure that the Executive Branch not have undue influence in making these decisions.

I look forward to your comments, and will address the final part of these proposals in the next post.

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