The Obama Administration uncorked its regulatory reform platform last week, and there was no shortage of either critics or champions of the package. Only one regulatory agency would be eliminated—the Office of Thrift Supervision—while the Securities Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and other regulatory fiefdoms beloved by various Congressional committees would remain unscathed. The Federal Reserve is the designated systemic-risk czar under the plan, and has influence throughout the Byzantine warrens of examiners, inspectors, and reviewers, but the Fed loses its consumer protection powers to the newly invented Consumer Financial Protection Agency. There would also be a new Financial Services Oversight Council chaired by the Treasury secretary, designed to advise the Fed, make recommendations, gather information from financial institutions, and deliver annual reports to Congress. The council chair presumably would also break up hall fights between member regulators.
President Barack Obama soon made clear his priority in the 85-page regulatory retooling. He devoted prime real estate to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency in his weekly address on June 20. “It is charged, with just one job: looking out for the interests of ordinary Americans in the financial system,” he said. “It will have the power to set tough new rules so that companies compete by offering innovative products that consumers actually want—and actually understand.”