Changes coming to bank stress tests, Fed’s Powell says

The Federal Reserve will be making some of its own changes to the way it regulates banks, ahead of a likely push from the Trump administration to loosen up post-financial crisis rules.

Fed Governor Jerome “Jay” Powell told CNBC in an interview Thursday that upcoming stress test results will come with communication from central bank regulators on those changes.

“We’re committed to running as transparent as possible and effective as possible set of stress tests,” Powell said. “They are very successful, very important post-crisis innovations and we want to continue to strengthen that.”

Though most U.S. banks have been passing the tests on a regular basis, they have criticized the process as cumbersome and lacking clear direction.

“We do hear the complaints and we are working now as we have continuously to provide more information, more transparency,” Powell said.

For instance, he added that the Fed will be providing “much more granular information” about how banks should be reporting loss rates for certain corporate loans. In addition, he said regulators will be seeking public input about how to improve the process.

It’s all part of a process to review how things have been going since the financial crisis.

Big Wall Street banks were the epicenter of crisis, with too much leverage and too little capital for protection once a wave of mortgage defaults set off a liquidity crisis. Congress in 2011 adopted the Dodd-Frank reforms that changed the way banking was done in the U.S. across a number of fronts. The new law increased capital requirements and limited risk-taking activities, such as banks trading for their own accounts.

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Now that much of that dust has cleared, Powell believes it’s time to take a look at how all of the changes worked.

President Donald Trump has targeted Dodd-Frank for substantial changes, and even said during last year’s campaign that he’d like to scrap the law entirely. His administration currently has the law under review for changes.

“I would say that the post-crisis reform program has been mostly completed and has mostly been successful,” Powell said. “I think it’s our obligation now as we reach completion of it to look back over it and ask what aspects of it may be redundant, inefficient, or utterly essential and should be protected down to every letter.”

One part likely to undergo changes is the co-called Volcker Rule, which restricts banks from trading for their own benefit. The rule almost certainly will be removed or amended, and Powell said the thinks there ways to make it “less burdensome” in how it is implemented.

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