President Donald Trump is planning to take the next step in his steady attack over the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law Friday.
The president is directing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to review regulators’ authority to unwind a bank on the brink of failure and to label nonbank firms — insurance companies, private equity firms and hedge-funds — as risky institutions.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mnuchin said the president’s actions would immediately put an end to regulators’ ability to use emergency authority without the president’s permission or name any firms as risky until a thorough review has been completed.
Trump will also sign an executive order at the Treasury Department asking Mnuchin to review any significant tax regulations issued last year, especially ones that burden American taxpayers or are too complex.
The Treasury secretary said the president’s three new orders are intended to signify how “enormously important” it is for both Treasury and the president to fulfill Trump’s campaign promises.
Mnuchin and his Treasury staff are already fulfilling a prior request by the president to review regulations and find ways to lessen burdens on businesses. That review is due in June.
A top priority for the Trump administration has been to drive economic growth through tax reform and loosening regulations.
Regulators’ emergency authority in the 2010 law has been a ripe target for the administration, because its repeal could have an impact on the federal budget. The Congressional Budget Office has said eliminating the regulation would create $15.2 billion in budget savings.
Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, issued a statement Friday warning against potential rollbacks.
“Any actions to undermine these protections encourage Wall Street’s risky behavior and leave taxpayers and our economy exposed to another catastrophe,” Brown said.
On Friday, Mnuchin also endorsed House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s latest plan to replace and repeal the 2010 reform law.
“We are supportive of him bringing forth this legislation and looking forward to working with him,” said the former Goldman Sachs banker. A committee hearing on Hensarling’s proposal is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Speaking at an event on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings, Mnuchin said Thursday the scope of Treasury’s regulatory review goes beyond rules tied to Dodd-Frank, which the president has called “horrendous.” Mnuchin’s staff has already met with more than a dozen focus groups to find areas for improvement, he said.
The Treasury secretary said the goal of the review was not to throw out all the rules to safeguard the financial system, but to ensure “proper regulation.” He said he wanted banks to be able to lend without putting taxpayers at risk.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has defended the Dodd-Frank provision, saying elimination would be a “major mistake.”
While “not perfect… is an essential tool for ensuring that financial stress does not escalate into a catastrophic crisis,” said Bernanke, who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The latest directive by the president calls on Mnuchin to complete a report within 180 days on whether an improved bankruptcy authority is a better alternative for failing financial companies. It also asks the secretary to look at whether giving regulators such powers would create costs for taxpayers or lead banks to take excessive risks. Mnuchin said the administration would listen to all sides of the debate as part of its review.
On Thursday, Mnuchin said he had “big concerns” with that specific authority, because the administration doesn’t want to support a too-big-to-fail policy. Republicans who want to repeal the backstop measures argue it codifies too-big-to-fail.
Still, the secretary said the bankruptcy code would need to be revised, because in its current form it would not be an efficient tool to safely wind down a bank overnight.
The second review asks Mnuchin to assess how regulators label firms as risky and what risks might be created by designating a firm.