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On March 9, the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee introduced and advanced five securities-related bills out of committee. The bills—listed below—now await scheduling for consideration by each chamber in full.
- S. 327 / H.R. 910 - Fair Access to Investment Research Act of 2017. This legislation will direct the SEC to provide a safe harbor for certain investment fund research reports.
- S. 444 / H.R. 1219 - Supporting America’s Innovators Act of 2017. This legislation will amend the Investment Company Act of 1940 by expanding “the limit on the number of individuals who can invest in certain venture capital funds before those funds must register with the SEC as ‘investment companies.’”
- S. 462 / H.R. 1257 - Securities and Exchange Commission Overpayment Credit Act. This legislation will require the SEC to refund or credit excess payments made to the Commission under a 10-year statute of limitations.
- S. 484 / H.R. 1366 - U.S. Territories Investor Protection Act of 2017. This legislation will amend the Investment Company Act of 1940 to terminate an exemption for companies located in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and any other possession of the United States.
- S. 488 / H.R. 1343 - Encouraging Employee Ownership Act. This legislation will increase the threshold for disclosures required by the SEC relating to compensatory benefit plans.
H.R. 1312 - The Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act. The House Financial Services Committee also approved a sixth bill, which seeks to amend the Small Business Investment Inventive Act of 1980 to require an annual review by the SEC of any findings set forth in the annual government-business forum on capital formation.
On March 2, Dr. Ben S. Carson was sworn in as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office. Earlier in the day, the Senate confirmed the retired neurosurgeon as the new secretary of the HUD Secretary in a 58-41 vote, primarily along party lines. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously voted to move Carson out of committee on January 24. Dr. Carson’s full biography is available here.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Called for End of CFPB; Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Responds
In a February 10 blog post, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling called for the abolition of the CFPB, and recommended that the President “immediately fire CFPB Director Richard Cordray.” Specifically, Rep. Hensarling expressed his belief that the CFPB is “arguably the most powerful, least accountable agency in U.S. history,” and his concern that the agency “defines its own powers and can launch investigations without cause, imposing virtually any fine or remedy, devoid of due process.” For these reasons, Rep. Hensarling stated he believes that “even with good policy, the CFPB would still be unconstitutional.” Ultimately, he argued that the CFPB “must be functionally terminated,” which he said could be achieved by ending the Bureau’s funding through a reconciliation bill.
The same day, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown issued a statement responding to Rep. Hensarling’s proposal to abolish the Dodd-Frank Act. Senator Brown’s response noted, among other things, that “71 percent of Americans approve of the [CFPB]’s mission,” and that “[t]he Hensarling proposal would transform the Bureau from an effective watchdog into a toy poodle.”
Legislation Introduced in Both Houses Seeking to Curb Authority of the CFPB and Other Financial Regulators
On February 14, Senator Mike Rounds, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced S. 365, which seeks to amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to bar the transfer of funds from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the CFPB. The bill also would require the CFPB to turn over all penalties it obtains to the United States Treasury. Sen. Rounds also reintroduced the “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk (TAILOR) Act” (S. 366)–a bill intended to ease regulatory burden on local banks and credit unions. Specifically, the TAILOR Act would require financial regulators to take into consideration the risk profile and business models of individual financial institutions and tailor those regulations accordingly. The TAILOR Act also would require regulators–including the OCC, the Fed, the FDIC, the NCUA and the CFPB–to conduct a review of all regulations issued since the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act and revise any regulations that do not conform to the TAILOR Act’s requirements. In addition, the regulatory agencies would be required to provide an annual report to Congress outlining the steps they have taken to tailor their regulations.
On February 15, Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.), along with Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), have introduced legislation S. 387 to amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act so that the CFPB would be subject to the regular appropriations process.
Senator Ted Cruz and Representative John Ratcliffe also introduced legislation in their respective chambers that would abolish the CFPB. The pair of bills–S. 370 and H.R. 1031–would “eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by repealing title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010.” As explained by Senator Cruz in a joint press release, the proposed legislation would give “Congress the opportunity to free consumers and small businesses from the CFPB’s regulatory blockades and financial activism, which stunt economic growth.”
On September 20, the CEO of a major national bank faced questions from the House Financial Services Committee over consumer account practices uncovered during a recent enforcement action by the CFPB. The CEO will return to Capitol Hill on September 29 for additional testimony in front of the Committee. In addition, the Director of the CFPB and the Comptroller of the Currency faced scrutiny from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs on their agencies awareness of, and failure to prohibit, the bank’s alleged actions for more than two years. In prepared testimony, Director Cordray indicated that the civil penalty levied against the bank was the “largest fine by far that the Consumer Bureau has imposed on any financial company to date” calling it a “dramatic amount as compared to the actual financial harm to consumers” but also “justified here by the outrageous and abusive nature of these fraudulent practices on such an enormous scale.” Director Cordray further stated that this enforcement action should help clarify how the CFPB will continue to analyze and enforce the prohibition on “abusive” practices under its mandate. Meanwhile Comptroller Curry explained how this enforcement action demonstrates the complimentary roles played by the OCC and the CFPB in supervising bank practices.
On March 3, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Federal Reserve Accountability and Reform.” The hearing comes after Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher’s February 13 remarks on the growing concern regarding the Federal Reserve’s current governance structure. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) “Audit the Fed” proposed legislation has brought increased attention to the transparency of the Federal Reserve operations and monetary policy. Scheduled witnesses for the hearing include Dr. John B. Taylor of Stanford University and Dr. Paul Kupiec of American Enterprise Institute.
On February 10, officials from federal and state banking authorities – the Fed, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and the CSBS – testified at a U.S. Senate Banking Committee on ways the agencies can provide “regulatory relief” to community banks and credit unions, which disproportionately incur burdens to implement the rules and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. Specifically, officials from each of the federal banking agencies detailed current initiatives and proposals that would provide less burdensome compliance costs.
On February 10, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs is scheduled to hold its first full committee hearing on financial regulation, “Regulatory Relief for Community Banks and Credit Unions.” Officials from both federal and state banking regulators will give prepared remarks.
On January 15, the FDIC announced Charles Yi as the agency’s new general counsel. Previously, Yi served as staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Banking and Finance at the Department of Treasury, and as Counsel for the Committee on Financial Services of the U.S. House of Representatives. Richard Osterman, who has served as acting General Counsel, will return to his previous position as Deputy General Counsel.
On January 7, the Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs elected Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala) as its new chairman for the 114th Congress. Sen. Shelby previously served as Committee chairman from 2003 to 2006. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will serve as the Committee’s ranking member.