U.S. Senate Banking Committee Schedules Hearing on Federal Reserve Reform

On March 3, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Federal Reserve Accountability and Reform.” The hearing comes after Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher’s February 13 remarks on the growing concern regarding the Federal Reserve’s current governance structure. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) “Audit the Fed” proposed legislation has brought increased attention to the transparency of the Federal Reserve operations and monetary policy. Scheduled witnesses for the hearing include Dr. John B. Taylor of Stanford University and Dr. Paul Kupiec of American Enterprise Institute.

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Federal Banking Agencies Seek Comment on Proposed Market Risk Regulatory Report

On February 18, three federal banking agencies – the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, and FDIC – issued a joint notice seeking public comments on a proposed information collection form and its reporting requirements, FFIEC 102 – “Market Risk Regulatory Report for Institutions Subject to the Market Risk Capital Rule.” If finalized, market risk institutions will be required to file the proposed FFIEC 102 to allow the agencies to, among other things, assess “the reasonableness and accuracy of the institution’s calculation of its minimum capital requirements . . . and . . . the institution’s capital in relation to its risks.” The proposed FFIEC 102 sets forth reporting instructions for financial institutions to which the market risk capital rule applies, and specifies that reporting requirements would take effect starting March 31, 2015. Comments to the proposal must be submitted on or before March 20.

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Dallas Fed President Proposes Changes in Fed Governance

On February 11, Richard W. Fisher, outgoing President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, delivered remarks before the Economic Club of New York in New York City. In his remarks, he outlined four proposals to address concerns regarding the Fed’s independence and of critics who feel too much authority is concentrated in the New York Fed. His four proposals: (i) Rotate the Vice Chairmanship of the FOMC (currently the NY Fed President is the FOMC’s permanent vice-chair); (ii) supervise and regulate systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) by Federal Reserve Bank staff from a district other than the one in which the SIFI is located; (iii) grant Federal Reserve Bank Presidents an equal number of votes as Fed Governors, with each getting six votes, and this would replace the current system where the NY Fed gets a permanent vote and the remaining 11 Reserve Banks get four votes, with Cleveland and Chicago voting every two years and the remaining Reserve Banks voting every three years; and (iv) require the Chair of the Federal Reserve hold a press conference after every FOMC meeting. Currently, the Chair holds a press conference every quarter.

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Federal Banking Regulators Testify on “Regulatory Relief”

On February 10, officials from federal and state banking authorities – the Fed, FDIC, NCUA, OCC, and the CSBS – testified at a U.S. Senate Banking Committee on ways the agencies can provide “regulatory relief” to community banks and credit unions, which disproportionately incur burdens to implement the rules and provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.  Specifically, officials from each of the federal banking agencies detailed current initiatives and proposals that would provide less burdensome compliance costs.

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Bank Regulators Release Public Sections of “Living Wills”

On January 15, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC issued a joint press release making available the public sections of resolution plans of firms with less than $100 billion in qualifying nonbank assets.  The Dodd-Frank Act requires that certain banking institutions periodically submit resolution plans to the Federal Reserve and the FDIC describing the bank’s strategy for rapid and orderly resolution in the event of material financial distress or failure of the company. The public portions of these “living wills” are available on the Federal Reserve and FDIC websites.

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President Obama Nominates Former Community Bank Chief to Fed Board

On January 6, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Allan R. Landon to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Landon would serve out the remaining term of former Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, who departed to become Deputy Secretary of Treasury. Previously, Landon was a partner at Ernst & Young LLP and served as Chairman and CEO of Bank of Hawaii Corporation.

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Fed Appoints New Director of Monetary Affairs Division

On January 6, the Federal Reserve appointed Thomas Laubach as director of the Division of Monetary Affairs. Mr. Laubach will advise the board and the Federal Open Market Committee on the conduct of monetary policy. Mr. Laubach first joined the Board’s staff officially in 2001, and has also served as a visiting senior economist at both the Bank for International Settlements and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Mr. Laubach succeeds William B. English, who was appointed senior special adviser to the Board.

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Fed Governor: “Tailor Regulations to the Institution”

On December 2, Fed Governor Brainard delivered remarks at the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA) Outreach Meeting in California. Governor Brainard noted the significance of safety and soundness in the banking system, but noted that some Dodd-Frank regulations should target only larger institutions so that undue burdens are not placed on community banks: “Applying a one-size-fits-all approach to regulations may produce a small benefit at a disproportionately large compliance cost to smaller institutions.” The EGRPRA review, conducted every 10 years, provides an opportunity for federal financial regulators to consider whether current regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome.

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New York Federal Reserve Bank Establishes Integrated Policy Analysis Group

On December 3, the New York Fed announced the formation of its Integrated Policy Analysis Group (IPA). Designed to develop the New York Fed’s view of the economic and financial environment globally, the IPA will (i) integrate information from within and outside the Bank to assess the developing economic and financial environment; (ii) assess risks with the potential to impact the Fed’s objectives and “consider policy options to mitigate those risks;” and (iii) manage international relationships. Alberto G. Musalem was appointed as the head of IPA, and the new group is scheduled to begin its work in January 2015.

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Banking Agencies Announce First Outreach Meeting

On November 5, the OCC, FDIC, and the Fed announced that they will hold an outreach meeting on December 2 to review regulations under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Acts of 1996 (EGRPRA). This is the first of a series of outreach meetings and will be held at the LA branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Under the EGRPRA, the FFIEC and the previously mentioned agencies must review their regulations at least every 10 years to identify any unnecessary or outdated regulations. The December 2 meeting will feature panel presentations by industry participants and consumer and community groups.

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Fed Issues Final Rule Limiting Bank Mergers of Large Financial Firms

On November 5, the Board finalized Reg. XX thereby implementing Section 622 of the Dodd-Frank. The final rule, which was proposed in May, prohibits a financial company from combining with another company if the resulting company’s liabilities exceed 10 percent of the aggregate consolidated liabilities of all financial companies. The final rule also adds an exemption to clarify that a financial company may continue to engage in securitization activities if it has reached the limit and establishes reporting requirements for financial companies that do not otherwise report consolidated information to the Board or other Federal banking agency. Financial companies subject to the limit include insured depository institutions, bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, foreign banking organizations, companies that control insured depository institutions, and nonbank financial companies designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council for Board supervision. The final rule will be effective on January 1, 2015.

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Agencies Propose Flood Insurance Rule

On October 30, five federal agencies – the FCA, FDIC, NCUA, OCC and the Fed – issued a proposed rule regarding flood insurance. The proposed rule will amend regulations relating to loans secured by property located in special flood hazard areas. Specifically, the proposed rule would (i) establish requirements in connection with the escrow of flood insurance payments; (ii) provide certain borrowers with the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees; and (iii) eliminate the HFIAA requirement “to purchase flood insurance for a structure that is part of a residential property located in a special flood hazard area if that structure is detached from the primary residential structure and does not also serve as a residence.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 29, 2014.

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Fed Ends QE3

On October 29, the FOMC released its policy statement announcing an end to the Fed’s mortgage and treasury bond purchase program used to boost the economy. Quantitative Easing 3 (QE3) was the third in a series of subsequent monetary policy tools used to spur investing and spending in part by keeping long-term interest rates low. The end of QE3 marks a significant milestone in the post-crisis era. Regarding the end of QE3, the FOMC noted that it had seen “a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of its current asset purchase program. Moreover, the Committee continues to see sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability. Accordingly, the Committee decided to conclude its asset purchase program this month.”

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Fed Issues Final Rule Affecting Financial Market Utilities, Updates Policy on Payment System Risk

On October 28, the Federal Reserve announced its final rule to amend Regulation HH, standards for financial market utilities (FMUs) that have been designated as systemically important by the FSOC. The new rule will implement a common set of risk-management standards for all designated FMUs and revise certain definitions. Further, the Fed also announced final revisions to part 1 of its Federal Reserve Policy on Payment System Risk. The final rule and revisions to the policy are based on the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructureswhich were developed jointly by the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems and the International Organization of Securities CommissionsSpecifically, the amendments and revisions will establish (i) separate standards to address credit risk and liquidity risk; (ii) new plans for recovery and orderly wind-down; (iii) new standards on general business risk and on tiered participation arrangements; and (iv) increased requirements on transparency and disclosure. The final rule will be effective on December 31, 2014. FMUs have until December 31, 2015 to comply with specific additional requirements set forth in the rule.

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Federal Reserve Board Appoints Adviser To The Board for Monetary Policy

On October 8, the Federal Reserve Board announced the appointment of William English as an advisor to the Board for Monetary Policy in the Office of Board Members. Since July 2010, Mr. English has served as the director of the Board’s Division of Monetary Affairs and as secretary to the Federal Open Market Committee. Mr. English is expected to remain as secretary to the FOMC so that he can continue to contribute to the monetary policy process.

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