WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling will likely reintroduce a Dodd-Frank overhaul bill by the end of the month.
The Financial Choice Act has been the House GOP's flagship financial reform bill and passed out of committee in the last Congress, but Hensarling has said he would introduce a 2.0 version this year.
“Our plan, which will be released in the next few weeks, is a bold and visionary plan that protects consumers by holding Wall Street and Washington accountable, ends bailouts and unleashes America’s economic potential,” Sarah Rozier, the committee's communications director, said Tuesday.
President Trump earlier in the day had reiterated calls to roll back the financial reform law.
“We’re doing a major elimination of the horrendous Dodd-Frank regulations,” Trump said. “Keeping some, obviously, but getting rid of many. And we’re going to put many millions of people back to work; the banks will be able to lend again.”
While Choice 2.0 has been closely vetted and got a boost from Trump’s strong comments, it faces an uncertain path in the Senate where it lacks Democratic support.
According to a summary sent to committee members comparing the two versions, the updated Choice Act will include notable changes, including a lower hurdle for banks to qualify for a Dodd-Frank “off-ramp” that exempts them from Basel III capital and liquidity requirements as well as restrictions on mergers and acquisitions.
It would require banks to have at least a 10% Tier 1 capital ratio to qualify for the off-ramp, compared with the original bill that specified banks would need a 10% leverage ratio and a Camels score of 1 or 2.
The bill would also allow banks that meet the capital requirement to be exempt from Federal Reserve Board stress tests.
However, it isn’t clear if the change is enough to get banks on board with the off-ramp.
“Removing the Camels 1 and 2 standards is something we are appreciative of. The construct of the capital ratio still causes some of our members concerns. There is a concern not just around the level, but also Congress’s desire to begin setting capital levels for institutions. We will continue to work with the Committee on this issue,” said James Ballentine, executive vice president at the American Bankers Association.
Choice 2.0 would make significant changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including changing its name to the Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency and making the director — currently Richard Cordray — and the No. 2 official removable at the will of the president. The original version of the bill would have made the CFPB a bipartisan commission.
Other changes to the CFPB include taking away its supervisory functions and Unfair, Deceptive or Abusive Acts and Practices authority and making it strictly an enforcement authority. It would do away with the publishing of its consumer complaint database, too.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency director would be removable at the will of the president in Choice 2.0 instead of making the agency a bipartisan commission. Unlike the version of the Choice Act that was introduced in the last Congress, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the National Credit Union Administration structure would remain intact.
Regulators would also have a harder time promulgating rules that have a significant economic impact; financial agencies that are writing rules that would have an effect of more than $100 million a year would have to provide an evaluation of the least costly or burdensome process for implementation and take state, local and private-sector input.
For larger banks, the bill takes aim at other stress-testing measures including the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review going to a two-year cycle and requiring only an annual company-run Dodd-Frank stress test. All banks would also be exempt from the qualitative portion of the CCAR.
Many of the changes outlined in the summary correspond with a leaked memo Hensarling’s office drafted in February with details on what a Choice Act reboot would look like.
Yet the GOP reg relief changes are not likely to attract any more Democratic votes than before, diminishing its chances to become law.
In response to the new summary, the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee denounced the proposal.
“The new version of the bill, which is even worse than Chairman Hensarling’s first draft, cannot be allowed to become law,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. “There is too much at stake for consumers and for our economy at large.”
Edward Mills, a policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said the new changes do not appear intended to draw bipartisan backing.
“This is not meant to get all that much Democrat support,” he said. “This bill was not written with Elizabeth Warren in mind.”
Mills said that while the bill may not become law, the changes to the stress testing regime could provide a blueprint to the Fed.
“Time and time again regulators look for direction even if it isn’t in law for what people would like to see,” said Mills, who added that the bill could provide “political cover for regulators or provide that political push for regulators to do something.”
“On the Fed’s agenda, it seems like changes to CCAR are reasonable,” he said.
Also notable is that the update did not include any changes to language that would repeal the Durbin Amendment, which caps debit interchange fees and is a hot-button issue for members of Congress who have powerful constituents on both sides of the debate.
“The important point is, things haven’t changed,” said Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. “Durbin repeal has survived. The 10% threshold remains. Those most contentious points have not been altered.”
Rozier indicated that the committee will also work closely with Trump as it looks to advance the legislation.
“Chairman Hensarling looks forward to working with the President and his administration to eliminate Dodd-Frank and replace it with the Financial Choice Act,” Rozier said.