Legislative Activity

Senate Banking Committee Set to Vote on Carson Nomination

This Tuesday, January 24, the Senate Banking Committee is set to vote on the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Two weeks ago, Dr. Carson received a fairly warm welcome from both Democrats and Republicans during his confirmation hearing, though there remains some skepticism among Democrats as to his qualifications for the position. Notably, Dr. Carson expressed his support for a government backstop in the mortgage market, while also expressing a desire to reduce the role of government in the housing sector. Dr. Carson also supported a general restriction on government overreach, including a reduction in funding for social welfare programs and public assistance programs. He assured the committee, however, that he would be a strong advocate for maintaining HUD’s budget and not seek to completely gut the agency. Notably, almost immediately following his inauguration, President Trump’s Administration suspended HUD’s prior decision to cut mortgage insurance rates.

House Financial Services Committee Republicans Question Legality of CFPB Actions

Last week, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee released a report arguing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) actions against indirect auto lenders may have violated federal law that governs agency rule-making procedures. The report identifies potential legal problems with the CFPB’s 2015 rule authorizing it to regulate the auto lending market. The report also contends that CFPB Director Richard Cordray failed to follow the advice of CFPB attorneys who advised him to publish a list of institutions the bureau believed would be subject to the proposed rule and to re-open the public comment period after it had closed. While the impact of this report remains to be seen, it no doubt sets the stage for Republican efforts to remove Director Cordray from his position – which, until the PHH case is resolved, can only be done for cause. Prior to the release of this report, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that President Trump is considering former Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) as a potential replacement to lead the CFPB.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 24: The Senate Banking Committee will hold an organizational business meeting to consider Committee rules, subcommittee assignments, an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the Committee during the 115th Congress, and the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Regulatory Activity

CFTC Names Commissioner Christopher Giancarlo Acting Chairman

Last week, Republican Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Christopher Giancarlo was named as acting chairman of the agency, succeeding Timothy Massad. Acting Chairman Giancarlo joined the CFTC in June 2014 and is expected to be President Trump’s pick to lead the agency going forward. Since being appointed as chairman, Mr. Giancarlo has begun to lay out his own vision for the agency. Note too, prior to leaving office, President Obama re-nominated each of the current Commissioners to continue in their positions.

In Final Days, Obama White House Releases FinTech Whitepaper

Amidst pushback from various Democrats on the proposal by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to allow access to a special purpose national bank charter by financial technology (FinTech) companies, the Obama Administration in its last days released a whitepaper outlining its FinTech policy objectives and principles, including:

  1. think broadly about the financial ecosystem;
  2. start with the consumer in mind;
  3. promote safe financial inclusion and financial health;
  4. recognize and overcome potential technological bias;
  5. maximize transparency;
  6. strive for interoperability and harmonize technical standards;
  7. build in cybersecurity, data security, and privacy protections from the start;
  8. increase efficiency and effectiveness in financial infrastructure;
  9. protect financial stability; and
  10. continue and strengthen cross-sector engagement

Though the Trump Administration has not yet outlined similar FinTech objectives and principles, the issue will no doubt continue to be a growing area of interest for policymakers.