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On May 4, GOP efforts to overhaul existing financial regulations took a step forward as the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 10, a revised version of the “Financial CHOICE Act of 2017” in a party-line vote, 34-26. The vote concluded a two week period that included both a three-day markup, of the GOP-backed legislation—during which several Democrat committee members sought, unsuccessfully, to remove various provisions of the bill—and, a two-day hearing that included testimony from 18 different witnesses.
- An Executive Summary of the proposed legislation is available here.
- A Comprehensive Summary of the proposed legislation is available here.
- A copy of the Legislative Text of the proposed legislation is available here.
Originally introduced by Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) in September 2016, the main focus of the CHOICE Act was to give financial institutions the option of avoiding many of the rules set up by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law if they maintain a high level of capital and are “well-managed” as defined in the bill. The legislation, if enacted, would also end the Dodd-Frank Act’s taxpayer-funded bailouts of large financial institutions and would impose greater penalties on those who commit fraud and insider trading, while also demanding greater accountability from banking regulators. A summary of changes incorporated in the latest iteration of the proposed legislation—recently referred to as “CHOICE Act 2.0”—was released by the Committee last week and included, among other things:
- the elimination of the CFPB supervisory and examination authority;
- a restructuring of the CFPB, FHFA, OCC, and FDIC into bipartisan commissions appointed by the President;
- an opt-out of many regulatory requirements for banks and other financial institutions if they maintain a 10% leverage ratio (among other conditions);
- subjecting the federal banking regulators to greater congressional oversight and tighter budgetary control;
- reforms in bank stress tests;
- materially reducing the authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the establishment of a new process of identifying financial institutions as "systemically important";
- a repeal of the Orderly Liquidation Authority and the creation of a new bankruptcy process for banks;
- a repeal of the Volcker Rule; and
- facilitated capital raising by small companies, including through crowd-funding.
Looking ahead, the House could vote to pass the bill later this month. While a party-line vote would pass the House, the bill will likely need to pick up a minimum of 60 votes—including support from several Democrats—in order for it to pass in the Senate.
Following Hearing, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Formally Introduces Financial CHOICE Act of 2017
On April 26, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to discuss The Financial CHOICE Act – a GOP proposal to “reform the financial regulatory system” that was initially introduced and considered, though differing in a number of respects from the current version, but not adopted in the last Congress. The hearing debated the merits of a discussion draft, which was released on April 19 by Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Shortly after Wednesday’s hearing, Chairman Hensarling formally introduced H.R. 10, The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017. An Executive Summary of the proposed legislation has also been released.
The April 26 hearing – a video of which can be accessed here – included testimony from the following witnesses:
- Mr. Peter J. Wallison, a Senior Fellow and Arthur F. Burn Fellow, Financial Policy Studies with the American Enterprise Institute
- Dr. Norbert J. Michel, a Senior Research Fellow, Financial Regulations and Monetary Policy, with the Heritage Foundation
- The Honorable Michael S. Barr, a Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School
- Mr. Alex J. Pollock, a Distinguished Senior Fellow with the R Street Institute
- Dr. Lisa D. Cook, an Associate Professor of Economics and International Relations at Michigan State University
- Ms. Hester Peirce, a Director in the Financial Markets Working Group and Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
- Mr. John Allison, Former President and Chief Executive Officer with the Cato Institute
On April 28, Democrats held a separate hearing pursuant to Clause (d)(5) of Rule 3 of the Committee rules, which entitles members of the minority party to call its own hearing on any matter that is the subject of a majority hearing. The second hearing day – a video of which can be accessed here – included testimony from the following witnesses:
- The Honorable Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator
- Rohit Chopra, Senior Fellow, Consumer Federation of America
- Corey Klemmer, Corporate Research Analyst, Office of Investment, AFL-CIO
- Rev. Willie Gable, Pastor, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
- John C. Coffee Jr., Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law, Columbia University
- Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- Melanie Lubin, Maryland Securities Commissioner, North American Securities Administrators Association
- Emily Liner, Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Program, Third Way
- Amanda Jackson, Organizing and Outreach Manager, Americans for Financial Reform
- Ken Bertsch, Executive Director, Council of Institutional Investors
- Sarah Edelman, Director, Housing Policy, Center for American Progress (CAP)
Ranking Minority Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) also used the hearing to express her strong disapproval of what she has dubbed the “Wrong Choice Act.” Among other things, the ranking member alleged that the proposed legislation would “destroy Wall Street reform, gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and returns us to the financial system that allowed risky and predatory Wall Street practices and products to crash our economy.”
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