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US relaxes Dodd-Frank rules for small banks

Americas / 02-12-16 / by
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Congress United States Senate USA Capitol Hill

The US House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the Dodd-Frank legislation, aiming to relieve the regulatory burden on small regional banks.

The bill, initially proposed by Republican congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, scraps the US$50bn asset threshold above which banks were previously considered “too big to fail” and therefore subjected to more stringent regulation. In its place, the bill proposes determining the systemic risk of each bank based on its size, interconnectedness, financial infrastructure, global cross-jurisdictional activity and complexity – a model based on the Basel Committee’s approach.

When he proposed the amendment at the end of November, Luetkemeyer said it would relieve the regulatory burden that has prevented mid-sized and small banks from lending to businesses and individuals.

The law still has to go through Senate before being presented to the president, but if it makes it to the Oval office after January 20, it is very likely to be signed into law: President elect Donald Trump pledged to go as far as repeal Dodd-Frank during his campaign, saying it has “made it impossible for bankers to function”.

The recent nomination of Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary suggests Trump plans to fulfil his promise: a former Goldman Sachs banker, Mnuchin has already announced that his number one priority would be to “strip back parts of Dodd-Frank”, namely the Volcker rule, which aims to stop banks from betting with deposit-insured funds.

“The number one problem with the Volcker rule is it’s way too complicated and people don’t know how to interpret it,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview this week. “So we’re going to look at what to do with it, as we are with all of Dodd-Frank.”

However, some experts are warning that Mnuchin may face difficulties being confirmed by the Senate given his Wall Street links and lack of political experience.

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