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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Powell discusses CRA, LIBOR at House hearing

Federal Issues House Financial Services Committee Federal Reserve CRA LIBOR Of Interest to Non-US Persons SOFR

Federal Issues

On February 11, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell provided testimony to the House Financial Services Committee during a hearing titled “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy,” discussing regulatory issues concerning, among other things, proposed rulemaking related to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the transition away from reliance on LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark in financial products. During the hearing, Powell fielded a number of questions concerning the Fed’s plan to update CRA regulations. Reaffirming his support for Fed Governor Lael Brainard’s disapproval of how quickly the FDIC and OCC issued their notice of proposed rulemaking (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), Powell stated that he is “very comfortable with. . .the thinking” Brainard recently outlined in a speech describing alternative approaches to the CRA modernization process (covered by InfoBytes here). Powell emphasized, however, that the ideas in Brainard’s speech do not yet represent a formal framework, stating “[w]e want to be very, very sure. . .that what comes out of this is a proposal. . .from us that will leave all major participants in CRA better off. And so we think it’s important that each metric, each change that we make is grounded in data.”

Powell also discussed the upcoming transition from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), stating that federal regulators are working to ensure financial institutions are prepared for LIBOR’s possible cessation. When asked whether Congress should “simply give the Fed the right to prescribe backup rates when the debt instruments do not do so,” or explicitly adopt SOFR, Powell responded that he did not believe a federal law change is necessary at this time. Powell further responded that the Fed will inform Congress if a change in federal law is needed, emphasizing that the Fed’s “process is ongoing” and that it is “committed to having the banks ready by the end of next year to switch. . .away from LIBOR in case [the rate] is no longer published.” Powell noted that while SOFR will be the main substitute for LIBOR, the Fed is “working with regional [banks] and some of the larger banks, too, about the idea of also having a credit sensitive rate.”

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