#Democrats

5 02, 2024

Karen Petrou: Why Lower Rates Won’t Lead to More Affordable Housing

2024-04-12T10:31:58-04:00February 5th, 2024|The Vault|

As Politico rightly pointed out last week, the inability of anyone who doesn’t already own a home to get one is turning into a significant political problem for incumbents of all persuasions.  It might also come to be one for the Federal Reserve based on a call I got from a senior senator a couple of weeks ago.  This is not exactly what the Fed needs given how hot a political potato it’s already become.

Having read my economic-inequality book, the senator called to ask if I thought the Fed had any responsibility for the acute shortage of affordable housing.  As in all too many other states, his has seen a migration of teachers, first responders, and the middle class as a whole from cities and resort areas, with these vital workers forced to live hours from their jobs and thus in a state of perpetual commuting which they fear puts their children at risk.

This isn’t news, but it’s worse than ever and thus not just a daily grind for many Americans, but also a serious political threat to this moderate Democrat.  His state is deep purple and he believes it’s getting redder by the minute thanks to Donald Trump’s ability to mobilize voter anger on day-to-day economic challenges such as the critical one facing those who cannot find affordable, desirable housing within reasonable distance of their jobs.

As might be expected, the senator wasn’t calling to ask an academic question; he wanted to know not just …

29 09, 2023

Karen Petrou: How a Shut-Down Stokes Systemic Risk

2023-09-29T11:41:22-04:00September 29th, 2023|The Vault|

Although there’s been some talk of what a government shut-down does to the SEC, there’s lots, lots more to worry about.  Risks are out there, risks that should be taken very, very seriously by the Members of Congress who seem to think that more chaos stokes their political fortunes.  Perhaps it does, but it could well do a lot of damage to their finances, not to mention those of all the voters who might well bear a reasonable grudge.

Where’s the systemic scary place?  Or, better said, places?  Some are right in front of us; others lurk in the closet waiting to pounce.

What worries me the most in the immediate future is the ability of bad actors to exploit what could be lightly- or even unguarded portals into critical financial market infrastructure.  There are of course many, many bad actors out there with the sophistication and/or state sponsorship quickly to test and then attack critical points in the payment, settlement, and clearing systems and/or the grids on which they rely.

As I discussed on Tuesday, not all providers of critical financial market infrastructure are under the hopefully-eagle eyes of the federal banking agencies which, funded outside federal appropriations, will remain open.  Some fall under the SEC or CFTC, agencies that will be hobbled, and some critical providers are wholly outside the regulatory perimeter.  Even if their nodes of market access seem small, disruption has a bad habit of migrating at lightning speed.  Even if power outages are …

22 05, 2023

Karen Petrou: How to Ensure That Independent Study of Regulatory Mistakes Leads to Near-Term, Meaningful Redress and Reform

2023-05-22T11:47:33-04:00May 22nd, 2023|The Vault|

Last week, a moderate Senate Democrat was joined by a Republican in yet another letter demanding an independent investigation of regulatory actions related to recent bank failures.  But, as the absence of specifics in any of these letters makes clear, it’s a lot easier to call for independent inquiry than to lay out how to conduct one that might make a meaningful difference.  Precedent is not encouraging – for example, Congress created a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission after 2008, but it was an unqualified waste of time and money.  Still, we urgently need an independent assessment of what went so wrong combined with another providing near-term, actionable reforms.  Having served on one post-crisis national commission that did a bit of good, I recommend separating the forensic inquiry from the one focused on the future, guarding against conflicts without eliminating expertise, and assessing only a few clear questions suitable for practical answers that can be readily accomplished under current law.

The first decision point determines all the rest:  whether the independent analysis is to be forensic – who dropped which heavy ball on whose toes – or focused on the future – what we learned and what to do about it.  Many of the proposals for an independent commission, including the Congressional letter noted above, want their commission to do both, but none could do so well and asking for this is thus asking for trouble.

A good forensic analysis will reduce the moral hazard enjoyed by federal supervisors long exempt …

6 03, 2023

Karen Petrou: Why Way-Woke Won’t Work in 2023

2023-03-06T16:31:48-05:00March 6th, 2023|The Vault|

The fact that both the House and Senate passed a Congressional Review Act resolution overturning the Department of Labor’s ESG standards makes it clear that striking an anti-woke blow is deemed good politics by red and purple politicians. The President’s certain veto also makes it clear that a blue man sees matters quite differently, as did 204 House Democrats and 46 of their Senate colleagues. This stalemate will continue for changes to federal law, but it won’t stop Republicans from taking a lot out on financial regulators and big banks that they can’t get into the law books. Thus, anyone deemed even a bit woke-ful will get an earful.

Even if all these excoriations are only rhetorical, they will prove meaningful because even federal regulators immune from the appropriations process are susceptible to political influence – as well they should be if they are not also to be unaccountable. That anti-wokeness is already making its mark is evident in many ways, most recently in the inter- agency crypto-liquidity risk statement at great pains to refute any Republican suggestion that tough new standards amount to a blanket ban on engaging in any form of legal cryptoasset activity. In essence, the new statement says, “banks can do crypto if it’s legal, but they almost surely shouldn’t do crypto because it’s way risky and we’re watching.”

To be sure, anything crypto isn’t always toxic. Another way the agencies will handle accusations that they are conducting a stealth-woke anti-crypto campaign is to make it …

23 01, 2023

Karen Petrou: How the CFPB Plans to Rule by Registry

2023-01-23T11:09:36-05:00January 23rd, 2023|The Vault|

Last week, we provided clients with an in-depth analysis of the CFPB’s latest nonbank registry as well as a hard look at its impact on mortgage securitization.  Any nonbank subject to the CFPB will find its legal arsenal much depleted by the registry’s requirements, a point already well understood by opponents.  Far less noticed but of still greater consequence to all consumer-finance companies is another implication of the Bureaus actions here and in another recent registry proposal:  even where the CFPB has little to no regulatory authority, it will deploy its formidable ability to gain public attention to make unbearable the reputational risk of any practice it abhors.

Justice Brandeis is often quoted as saying that sunshine is the most powerful disinfectant and Director Chopra clearly plans to cast companies under a scorching sun.  That is works was demonstrated by his decision to detail the ways in which he believes overdraft fees support predatory earnings at considerable cost to vulnerable consumers.  That most banks charged overdraft fees in strict compliance with current rules made enforcement action at best a challenging route to reform.  Rewriting the rules would have gotten the Bureau where it wanted to go, but only over at least a year of wrangling.  Set out in the merciless sun by Mr. Chopra and Congressional Democrats, many banks decided that the political and reputational risk of continuing overdraft fees was just too high.

Overdraft reform thus proved easy to say and then to do.  So it is …

8 02, 2022

FedFin: Partisan Impasse Suggests Small Chance for Stablecoin Statutory Change

2023-04-05T12:06:36-04:00February 8th, 2022|The Vault|

Today’s HFSC hearing on stablecoins makes it clear that the bipartisan legislation Chairwoman Waters (D-CA) prefers is at best a long way off. Democrats generally agreed with the President’s Working Group stablecoin report (see Client Report CRYPTO21), with Under-Secretary Liang today not only describing its findings but reinforcing the need for rapid regulatory intervention in concert with substantive statutory change.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

3 02, 2022

FedFin Assessment: Raskin Confirmation Possible, But a Squeaker

2023-04-05T14:06:56-04:00February 3rd, 2022|The Vault|

As this report details, all three Fed nominees before the Senate Banking Committee today emphasized the vital importance of Fed independence and their anti-inflation zeal to quell GOP opposition and cement it among moderate Democrats. Professor Philip Jefferson sailed through and will be confirmed — perhaps quickly — by a relatively -wide bipartisan margin. We expect Professor Lisa Cook also to prevail, with Democrats likely joined by a
couple of moderate Republicans convinced that attacks on her expertise art unseemly with regard to a Black woman given how rarely similar concerns are voiced about white nominees with no macroeconomic-policy expertise.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

17 12, 2021

FedFin: Building Buffers

2023-05-22T15:57:33-04:00December 17th, 2021|The Vault|

As noted on Thursday, FHFA continues to tread carefully through the big-bank rulebook, adopting standards said to be like-kind that aren’t quite so similar when it comes to critical details.  The latest proposal demands capital planning in a construct akin to the one Democrats favored as the agencies finalized the big-bank stress capital buffer (SCB) minus express restrictions on capital distributions.  Although the SCB will make Fannie and Freddie more resilient, it also steepens the climb out of conservatorship unless some new capital comes along.

The full report is available to subscription clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

16 12, 2021

FedFin: Bank Merger Policy

2023-05-22T16:11:59-04:00December 16th, 2021|The Vault|

Released in a highly-controversial fashion (see below) by two Democrats on the FDIC’s board, this RFI posits the need for a significant review of mergers involving insured depository institutions (IDIs) due to many changes in the financial industry and, so it says, the lack of substantive competitive analysis over past decades even of the largest transactions.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

8 12, 2021

FedFin: HFSC Begins Political Taxonomy of Crypto-Asset Policy

2023-05-23T13:06:52-04:00December 8th, 2021|The Vault|

As anticipated, today’s HFSC hearing was a marathon session at which industry witnesses defended their business model, Republicans liked it fine, and Democrats worried about a wide array of policy challenges. While both sides of the aisle agreed that cryptoassets might well enhance financial inclusion, partisan battle lines formed over issues such as the extent to which stablecoins are fully reserved, covered by the securities laws, and if a single regulator for this sector is either desirable or feasible. Industry witnesses strongly rejected the PWG’s stablecoin conclusions (see Client Report CRYPTO21), suggesting for example that stablecoins are safer than bank deposits because they are fully – not fractionally – reserved.

 

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

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