U.S. set to impose financial regulations
The Washington Post reports today that Treasury Secretary Geithner is set to propose more regulations, most of which have to be passed by Congress:
The Obama administration’s plan, described by several sources, would extend federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives and to companies including large hedge funds and major insurers such as American International Group. The administration also will seek to impose uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, an unprecedented step that would place significant limits on the scope and risk of their activities.
Most of these initiatives would require legislation.
The nation’s financial regulations are largely an accumulation of responses to financial crises. Federal bank regulation was a product of the Civil War. The Federal Reserve was created early in the 20th century to mitigate a long series of monetary crises. The Great Depression delivered deposit insurance and a federally sponsored mortgage market. In the midst of a modern economic upheaval, the Obama administration is pitching the most significant regulatory expansion since that time.
The government also plans to push companies to pay employees based on their long-term performance, curtailing big paydays for short-term victories. Long-simmering anger about Wall Street pay practices erupted last week when the Obama administration disclosed that AIG had paid $165 million in bonuses to employees of its most troubled division, despite losing so much money that the government stepped in with more than $170 billion in emergency aid.
The administration’s signature proposal is to vest a single federal agency with the power to police risk across the entire financial system. The agency would regulate the largest financial firms, including hedge funds and insurers not currently subject to federal regulation. It also would monitor financial markets for emergent dangers.
Geithner plans to call for legislation that would define which financial firms are sufficiently large and important to be subjected to this increased regulation. Those firms would be required to hold relatively more capital in their reserves against losses than smaller firms, to demonstrate that they have access to adequate funding to support their operations, and to maintain constantly updated assessments of their exposure to financial risk.
So far the plan looks good on paper. But its hard to tell if we’d be able to recognise it by the time it has trotted out of both Congress and Senate, and after the House and Senate have recounciled their differences. Well, at least America is trying to learn from its disastrous mistakes of the late Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.