Wall Street banks on Tuesday cheered U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to loosen the leash put on them in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis but they do not expect significant change anytime soon.
The Trump administration has said the bulk of its plan for overhauling bank regulation can be done via executive order and through regulators, rather than requiring legislation from Congress. But Trump is months away from installing top officials at key regulatory posts to carry out his agenda.
We won’t see policy changes before the end of the year,” said Rich Foster, senior counsel for regulatory and legal affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group.
Trump has gradually been nominating heads of financial agencies, but only Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton have been approved by Congress. Other agencies are either awaiting presidential picks or are operating under “acting” chiefs. Others have leaders appointed by Trump’s Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama.
The Federal Reserve has already signaled it will make its stress testing of banks more transparent and is considering other steps to simplify the process, in line with Treasury’s recommendations.
But the Treasury called for even more significant changes, including having the Fed overhaul its testing models and assumptions. Such changes may have to wait until the administration has appointed a vice chair in charge of banking oversight at the Fed.
Randal Quarles, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, is expected to be Trump’s pick for the Fed’s top bank regulator, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters. He has not been named publicly while he is being vetted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Government Ethics.
Once he is named, he will have to be confirmed by the Senate — a process that could easily slide into the fall with Congress facing a busy calendar and an upcoming five-week congressional recess from the end of July to the beginning of September.
Analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, has found that since 1989, it has taken an average of 149 days for a financial regulatory nominee to receive Senate confirmation after being announced.
Quarles has declined to comment on speculation about the possible nomination.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is being managed by an interim Trump pick, Keith Noreika, while the Senate considers Joseph Otting for the top role.
Otting was nominated earlier this month, but could face a contentious confirmation. Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee that will consider the pick, has already announced his opposition, citing his time as an executive at OneWest Bank and that firm’s foreclosure practices.
In addition to Clayton at the SEC, Christopher Giancarlo, the acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is already in position, awaiting full confirmation to take on the role full-time.
But at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), Obama appointee Martin Gruenberg intends to serve his full term, which expires in November. Treasury’s plans to ease some of the restrictions around banks’ trading, living wills and their adherence to international banking accords could face resistance from him, given his role in drafting many existing rules.
An FDIC spokesperson declined to comment.
The Treasury report also focuses significant attention on overhauling mortgage rules. But that would require cooperation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which wrote many of them.
That agency’s Obama-appointed director, Richard Cordray, has a term that does not expire until summer 2018.
The CFPB, created in the wake of the financial crisis, receives its funding through the Federal Reserve and Trump can only fire Cordray “for cause,” an almost impossible standard to meet. That leaves few levers the administration can pull to get the agency to reorganize its internal operations or make the suggested changes on mortgages.
Cordray will probably do nothing more than subject Trump’s proposals to “long-term analysis,” said Quyen Truong, a partner at law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which in Washington means he will shelve it. Truong was the assistant director and deputy general counsel for the CFPB until early 2016.
“The changes proposed by the study go to fundamental aspects of the CFPB’s philosophy and operations,” she said. “The CFPB likely will not confront directly those proposals.”
A CFPB spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the report, but had no further comment at this time.
A Treasury spokesperson maintained the administration would be working quickly on its recommendations even as some key posts await Trump picks.
“We have strong working relationships with the regulators and considerable dialogue is already underway,” said a Treasury spokesperson. “We plan on working with them to begin swiftly advancing these recommendations.”