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US Democrat vows to halt easing of banking regulations

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California Representative Maxine Waters is expected to lead the House Financial Services Committee once the next Congress begins at the start of 2019 and her remarks signaled what could be a substantial shift in oversight.

[WASHINGTON] A senior Democrat lawmaker on Wednesday vowed to halt the easing of financial regulations once her party takes power in the US House of Representatives in January.

California Representative Maxine Waters is expected to lead the House Financial Services Committee once the next Congress begins at the start of 2019 and her remarks signaled what could be a substantial shift in oversight.

"Make no mistake, come January ... the days of this committee weakening regulations and putting our economy once again at risk of another financial crisis will come to an end," Ms Waters said.

She spoke ahead of twice-yearly testimony by Federal Reserve Board Governor Randal Quarles, the central bank's chief for banking supervision

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Following her statement, shares in financial firms moved lower on Wall Street but markets were already sinking around 1700 GMT.

In May, lawmakers, including many Democrats, adopted a rollback of certain provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation, freeing thousands of small banks from the heightened federal oversight intended to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Advocates said such regulations, including stress testing, were too onerous for smaller banks with assets below US$250 billion and that changes would help spur the economy.

Since last year, federal regulators, including the Fed, have also removed "too big to fail" designations from the insurance giants AIG and Prudential Financial, meaning they too face less stringent requirements.

Ms Waters also said Wednesday the Fed must keep a "watchful eye" on financial institutions and "make strong use" of existing powers to punish legal violations.

Mr Quarles said in opening remarks that the Fed was "very much aware of the dangers of complacency" but that the banking system as a whole continued to be well capitalized and continued to make improvements in how it managed risks.

The changes represented a "step forward in regulatory efficiency," he said, creating a "nuanced framework where riskier activities and a larger systemic footprint correspond to higher supervisory and regulatory requirements."

"I wouldn't view that in any way as weakening regulation," Mr Quarles said in answering lawmakers' questions.

"I think that's an appropriate alignment of regulation."

AFP