Relaxing financial laws put in place in answer to the Great Recession is a mistake.
Federal officials in Congress and at the Federal Reserve are poised to weaken financial laws put in place to rein in the banking industry during the Great Recession. That would be a big mistake. They must not have learned the lessons of the 2008 market crash.
President Donald Trump is working hard to fulfill campaign promises to “do a big number” on the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that in 2010 established sensible controls on the U.S. banking system. But he seems to have forgotten his promises to regular Americans to protect them from predatory banking practices.
The Senate approved a loosening of Dodd-Frank rules in March, the House passed the measure on May 22 and the president signed it into law on May 24. The new rules wisely do not go as far as Trump wanted. Thousands of small and medium-sized banks are now freed from some Dodd-Frank regulations, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau still will regulate mortgages, credit cards and other financial products offered by banks.
Some lawmakers in Congress have held the line on deeper rollbacks, but they must be vigilant so the United States does not slip backward into the mistakes that led to the last financial crisis.
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That vigilance is important as the Federal Reserve considers a plan to soften the Volcker Rule, which prevented banks from making risky investments with depositors’ money.
The Fed has proposed easing several parts of the Volcker rule, to allow the largest banks more latitude to decide what types of trades comply with the rules, how much risk they are comfortable with, and to simplify reporting. Strict internal bank rules could replace some outside monitoring.
These changes could be acceptable if they are truly just a simplification and not a major easing of restrictions.
Trump’s efforts to deregulate industry mesh with the banking industry’s desire to finally ease some of the rules imposed after their risky behavior led to the 2008 crash.
The Federal Reserve also has been looking into easing limits on borrowing by large banks and may shift its own guidance on the stress tests banks must pass to show they are prepared to withstand crises.
These deregulation efforts could be perilous for consumers who cannot afford the shenanigans that led to the last recession. Americans need many of the strong protections passed into law during the recession. Nothing has changed to make those regulations less relevant today, despite better economic times.
Consumers need to know Congress and federal agencies have their backs in good times and bad.