In Finance Agency’s Birth, a Lesson for Obama Plan
By Steven Sloan
The merger of two government-sponsored enterprise regulators to form the Federal Housing Finance Agency — a year ago this month — offers a cautionary tale as policymakers consider combining banking agencies and creating a new consumer protection supervisor. Though the new agency was billed as the creation of a “world-class regulator,” critics say it is little more than a sum of its parts, and new authorities it was given were granted too late to stave off the collapse of its principal institutions — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While some worry a similar fate could befall a proposed merger Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Office of Thrift Supervision, they also raise concerns that the Obama restructuring plan is at odds with what most consider a right move in the creation of the Finance Agency: combining mission and safety and soundness oversight. “It’s a good comparison in terms of the split responsibilities, but I think the difference … was that HUD had the affordable housing goals but not a lot of power to execute them, and whatever power it had was never used,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, the managing director of Federal Financial Analytics. “The CFPA, as proposed by the administration, would be extremely empowered.” The big question facing the GSEs is what will happen to them once they emerge from conservatorship, something Lockhart said could happen within a year and a half. That would also have implications for the Finance Agency itself. “If Fannie and Freddie were turned into a government agency…, you wouldn’t need a third-party regulator,” Petrou said.