What struck me most about the HFSC hearing at which I testified last week was how lukewarm Democrats are to the new rules unless they feel compelled to defend the White House or core political objectives. When the partisan spotlight dimmed, more than a few Democrats said that the rules might have both small and even significant perverse consequences. Given that GOP-led repeal of the rules is impossible and court overturn is at best a lengthy process, hard work to get the rules more to the middle is essential. Even if large banks still think the rules are bad, they’ll be better and that’s all to the good.
What’s the how-to? In short, it’s a concerted campaign to fix the most problematic technical confusions in the massive body of new rules – these are manifest and manifold, focusing hard on obvious flaws and saving raging debates such as those over how big banks should be for another day. I think this approach is best not only because it avoids political landmines, but also because it works.
In the mid-2000s, a group of custody banks with which we worked laid out numerous unintended consequences in the Basel II approach to operational risk-based capital. By the time this landed in the final Basel III rules, it wasn’t great, but it was a lot, lot better in terms of actually capitalizing real risk at savings mounting to billions in what would have been unnecessary regulatory capital.
My testimony lays out a road-map of …