WASHINGTON Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced a bill Thursday designed to increase transparency at the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
The bill would open up FSOC meetings, often held behind closed doors, to greater participation from regulators and lawmakers, after Garrett said in a press release that he was recently barred from joining a March 27 gathering. The financial oversight group has also recently come under fire by two Securities and Exchange Commission commissioners for undercutting the agency's work.
"Over the last two years, it has become increasingly apparent that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), created by the Dodd-Frank Act, is in serious need of reform," Garrett said in a press release. "The council meets in secret, refuses to disclose substantive transcripts, and blocks any requests by other regulators or Members of Congress for a more open and transparent process."
The council, which is charged with monitoring risks to the financial system, has ten voting members: the Treasury Secretary, who serves as chair, and the heads of the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, SEC, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Federal Housing Finance Agency, National Credit Union Administration Board and an independent member appointed by the president.
Garrett's legislation would allow all members of boards or commissions at the relevant agencies to participate in meetings and would require votes to be taken first by the full board or commission before a principal brings that vote to the FSOC. It would also open up meetings to lawmakers serving on related oversight committees and would subject the council to the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Government in the Sunshine Act, two existing governance and transparency laws.
"Currently, the Board is only made up of the single-party, politically appointed heads of each financial services regulatory body," Garrett added. "The FSOC is not subject to any of the good governance laws that all of the traditional regulatory agencies are subject to. There is no requirement that these meetings be open to the press, there is no allowance for appropriate congressional oversight, and there is no clarity around the exact rationale for any of the Council's decisions."
According to the FSOC's transparency policy, the council says it will open its meetings to the public whenever possible. However, it caveats that invitation by reminding the public that the council often discusses supervisory and other market-sensitive data, about firms, transactions and market on a confidential basis, so it may be unable to do so.
"Protection of this information will be necessary in order to prevent destabilizing market speculation that could occur if that information were to be disclosed," according to the two-page policy statement, which outlines a number of reasons a meeting would have to be closed.
Donna Borak contributed to this story.