Finance Brief: Treasury Department Recommends Changes to CFPB, Volcker Rule

Washington Brief

  • The Treasury Department recommended a significant curbing of authority at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, along with allowing the agency’s director to be fired at will, in a report required by an executive order President Donald Trump signed in February. The report does not call for a complete repeal of Volcker Rule limits on proprietary trading but instead proposes exempting small institutions from the Dodd-Frank regulation. (The New York Times)
  • Trump plans to nominate Brian Brooks, general counsel at Fannie Mae, to serve as deputy Treasury secretary. Brooks, who would replace James Donovan as the administration’s nominee to be the No. 2 official at the agency, worked with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at OneWest Bank. (Axios)
  • Mnuchin told lawmakers that he expects the United States will be able to make debt payments until at least early September, meaning congressional action to raise the debt limit might not be necessary before the August recess. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • The Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not allow customers to sue institutions that bought defaulted debt from a different institution. The unanimous decision, a victory for Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., marked the first majority opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch. (Bloomberg News)
  • The cybersecurity practices of executives at major U.S. banks are under scrutiny after Goldman Sachs Group Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat fell for hoax emails that prompted them to share non-sensitive information with a prankster. (Reuters)
  • The online financial services firm SoFi applied for an industrial bank charter in Utah, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The move, which would mean SoFi is able to take FDIC-insured deposits, could give the institution an opportunity to offer banking services normally associated with brick-and-mortar banks like Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
SIFMA conference on prudential regulation 7:45 a.m.
SEC online seminar for Investment Company and investment adviser senior officers 9 a.m.
Peterson Institute event on NAFTA renegotiation 10 a.m.
Wednesday
House Appropriations subcommittee hearing with Treasury’s Mnuchin 10 a.m.
House Financial Services Committee marks up flood insurance bills 10 a.m.
CompTIA webinar on blockchain 1 p.m.
Thursday
Senate Banking Committee hearing on regional and large banks 10 a.m.
FSR event on financial regulation in the Trump administration 10 a.m.
Cato Institute event on financial crisis and GSEs 10 a.m.
National Economists Club discussion with economist Anthony Elson 11 a.m.
National Journal webinar on what’s next for financial reform 11 a.m.
FDIC teleconference on liquidity risk and funds management 2 p.m.
Friday
Harvard University event on state of nation’s housing 12 p.m.

 

General

Trump Administration Says Financial Watchdog Agency Should Be Defanged
Alan Rappeport and Matthew Goldstein, The New York Times

The Trump administration is calling for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power to be stripped substantially as part of an overhaul of banking regulations that were imposed after the 2008 financial crisis. In a report released late Monday, the Treasury Department accused the bureau of regulatory overreach and said its director should be able to be removed at the president’s discretion.

Mnuchin: Debt ceiling won’t hit until early September
Niv Elis, The Hill

The government will be able to keep paying its debts through at least the beginning of September, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a House panel on Monday. Mnuchin did not give lawmakers a hard deadline for when the debt ceiling needed to be raised but said it could wait until after Congress’s August recess.

Debt ceiling deadline likely in October or November, think tank says
Joseph Lawler, The Washington Examiner

Congress’ deadline to raise the debt ceiling is likely to fall in October or November, according to a new report published Monday by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The group, a nonprofit think tank, monitors the funds flowing in and out of the Treasury to estimate when it is likely to run out of cash.

Ocwen to Resume Constitutional Attack on CFPB
Chris Bruce, Bloomberg BNA

Ocwen Financial Corp. will within days again take up a challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s constitutionality, a spokesman for Ocwen confirmed June 9.  Ocwen sought to raise that question early on in a case brought by the CFPB in April that claimed the Atlanta-based company violated consumer protection laws in servicing loans of distressed borrowers.

Trump nominee denies that he was trying to imply he had an Ivy League degree
Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

President Trump’s nominee to be a key banking regulator said through a spokesman Monday that he did not misrepresent that he had a degree from Dartmouth College, but simply used the wording on a certificate he earned from a four-week continuing education program held at the school. “He’s not implying that he got a degree from Dartmouth College,” said Sig Rogich, a spokesman for Joseph Otting.

Trump Regulation Plan Makes for Pleasant Reading on Wall Street
Aaron Back, The Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration’s financial deregulation plan is the one to watch in Washington. That bodes well for America’s biggest lenders.

Europe Stocks Gain as Tech Rout Fades; Pound Rises: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Technology companies helped drive a bounce in European stocks as a global selloff that started in the sector last week showed signs of abating. Futures on the S&P 500 Index rose 0.2 percent.

Banking

U.S. bank bosses succumb to email hoaxer
Anjuli Davies and Olivia Oran, Reuters

The bosses of Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Citigroup (C.N) are the latest executives to fall victim to an email prankster who has also managed to connect with the head of Barclays (BARC.L) and the governor of the Bank of England. While neither Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein nor his Citi counterpart Michael Corbat revealed any sensitive information, the exchanges will raise questions about the way banks’ computer systems handle emails to addresses outside their companies.

US online lender SoFi takes step towards becoming a bank
Ben McLannahan, Financial Times

SoFi, the US online lender whose CEO once promised to smash the big banks like a meteor smashed the dinosaurs, could be about to become a bank itself. On Monday the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation revealed that San Francisco-based SoFi had filed an application last week for an industrial bank charter from the state of Utah.

Beneath the Uneasy Peace Between Donald Trump and Janet Yellen
Nick Timiraos and Kate Davidson, The Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump’s fierce criticisms of the Federal Reserve in the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign suggested the central bank would face a rough time with the new administration. Instead, the nation’s two most powerful economic-policy players—the president and the leader of the central bank—are off to a surprisingly smooth start.

Insider Q&A: CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association
Ken Sweet, The Associated Press

Richard Hunt is president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, the nation’s trade organization for the big retail banks like JPMorgan Chase, US Bank, Wells Fargo and the like. Hunt sat down with The Associated Press this spring after the CBA’s annual conference to discuss politics, competition and Wells Fargo.

Credit union seeks to offer hope beyond payday lending
Nancy Hicks, Lincoln Journal Star

A credit union that will offer an option to people who sometimes get caught in the payday loan trap and a banking alternative to others will open this summer in downtown Lincoln. Community HOPE Federal Credit Union has been issued its certificate of charter and will begin serving the downtown area in August, from offices in the 1600 block of N Street, said Mark Koller, who helped start the low-income credit union and will be its CEO.

France Holds Out as Bank Regulators Drive for Basel Overhaul
Boris Groendahl and Silla Brush, Bloomberg News

Global bank regulators have been toiling for a decade on capital rules intended to help prevent another financial crisis. Now they’re within touching distance of a final deal, with one main obstacle standing in their way: France.

Financial Products and Investments

Supreme Court Unanimously Backs Debt Collector in Gorsuch Opinion
Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News

The U.S. Supreme Court limited a federal law that protects consumers from overaggressive debt collectors, as Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote his first majority opinion. Writing for a unanimous court, Gorsuch said the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t authorize lawsuits against companies that buy defaulted loans from another lender.

Trump to nominate ex-NYSE VP Dawn DeBerry Stump to CFTC
Mohammad Zargham, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate Dawn DeBerry Stump, a former vice president at NYSE Euronext, to serve as commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the White House said in a statement on Friday. It said Stump is president of Stump Strategic, a consulting firm, and earlier worked in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she focused on farm policy matters and the CFTC.

Merrill Lynch to settle 401(k) lawsuit for $25 million
Greg Iacurci, Investment News

Merrill Lynch has agreed to a $25 million settlement in a 401(k) lawsuit alleging the firm breached its fiduciary duties when it failed to ensure a small-retirement-plan client received mutual-fund sales discounts to which it was entitled. The plaintiffs — trustees for the LAAD Retirement Plans, which held accounts with Merrill Lynch — sought disgorgement or restitution from Merrill Lynch for any ill-gotten gains and excessive payments made due to the allegations of fiduciary breach, on plaintiffs’ behalf and that of similarly situated plans.

Investors leery of easing private equity regs
Arleen Jacobius, Pensions & Investments

The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week, would deregulate private equity in the U.S., among other things, easing the load for all but the smallest U.S. private equity firms. Among the key changes for private equity managers, the act would eliminate the requirement that private equity firms register with, and be regulated and examined by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wall Street’s self-regulator allows safe havens for tainted brokers
Benjamin Lesser and Elizabeth Dilts, Reuters

In three years of managing investments for North Dakota farmer Richard Haus, Long Island stock broker Mike McMahon and his colleagues charged their client $267,567 in fees and interest – while losing him $261,441 on the trades, Haus said. McMahon and others at National Securities Corporation, for instance, bought or sold between 200 and 900 shares of Apple stock for Haus nine times in about a year – racking up $27,000 in fees, according to a 2015 complaint Haus filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Finra CEO Robert Cook promises to give brokerages more guidance on overseeing rogue brokers
Mark Schoeff Jr., Investment News

Finra intends to help brokerages better identify and supervise brokers with checkered disciplinary histories who may pose risks to investors. In coming months, the broker-dealer self-regulator will delineate Finra’s expections, CEO Robert Cook said during a speech at Georgetown University Monday.

Housing and GSEs

Fannie Mae exec to be nominated Treasury Deputy Secretary
Jonathan Swan and Alexi McCammond, Axios

Fannie Mae’s General Counsel Brian Brooks will be appointed Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Department, according to three sources with direct knowledge. He previously worked with Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin at OneWest, which became the largest bank in Southern California after the 2008 economic collapse.

Taxes

Koch-backed group expands ad campaign on tax reform
Naomi Jagoda, The Hill

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) on Tuesday announced that it is expanding its six-figure ad campaign on tax reform to target senators in addition to members of the House. The group, which is tied to the wealthy GOP donors Charles and David Koch, launched ads earlier this month that are focused on members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Freedom Caucus Sets Up Battle With Leadership Over Taxes
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

House Republican leaders are negotiating a tax overhaul with their counterparts in the Senate and the White House, but another group of GOP lawmakers is signaling it too must be included in any deal. House Freedom Caucus leaders are laying out their ideas for overhauling the tax code that, together with a related proposal for getting a budget deal, is likely to set them up for a fight with GOP leaders and tax writers.

Financial Technology

Coin Center to Lawmakers: Blockchain Startups Are Best Advised to Leave US
Stan Higgins, CoinDesk

A Congressional hearing on Friday saw the non-profit blockchain advocacy group Coin Center call for a federal approach to money services licensure. The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection – a part of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – hosted a session on financial technology and consumer choice as part of its ongoing “Disrupter” series.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

An overwhelming majority of consumers say big-box retailers are looking out for their own bottom lines, not main street interests as they may claim. The Durbin amendment has only benefited large retailers’ bottom lines, while harming consumers, small merchants, and community financial institutions. Isn’t it time we repeal this policy? Get the facts from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Bipartisan Plan for Flood Insurance
Sen. Bob Menendez et al., The Wall Street Journal

Powerful floods devastate communities across America every year. After these catastrophic natural disasters, too many Americans find themselves facing a man-made calamity: a National Flood Insurance Program that overcharges and underdelivers for policyholders and for taxpayers.

Let’s Get Real About ‘Financial CHOICE’
Robert Hockett, Forbes

Possibly lost to many Americans amid the spectacle of Jame’s Comey’s Senate testimony last week was a quieter action, taken on the sly the same day, by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Naming their deed, in characteristically Orwellian and now painfully ungrammatical fashion, “The Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs Act,” all House Republicans save one voted to nullify the most important post-crisis finance-regulatory reforms brought by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

Small firms need tax relief
Kevin Shivers, The Times-Tribune

Every hardworking American feels the pain of taxes. Just the process of filing taxes can be frustrating, confusing and costly.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Voters agree: if merchants aren’t passing along savings, the Durbin amendment should be repealed. Evidence shows big-box stores have pocketed $42 BILLION at their customers’ expense-Congress must take action to end this failed policy. Learn more from EPC.

Research Reports

A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Banks and Credit Unions
Steven T. Mnuchin and Craig S. Phillips, U.S. Department of the Treasury

A sensible rebalancing of regulatory principles is warranted in light of the significant improvement in the strength of the financial system and the economy, as well as the benefit of perspective since the Great Recession. Treasury has identified recommendations that can better align the financial system to serve consumers and businesses in order to support their economic objectives and drive economic growth.

Billion Dollar Blind Spot: How the U.S. Tax Code’s Small Business Expenditures Impact Women Business Owners
Caroline Bruckner, American University

In 1976, the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) released its first ever report on the state of women’s business ownership in the United States that counted 402,025 women-owned U.S. firms representing only 4.6% of all firms and 0.3% of all U.S. business receipts, as of 1972. Today, women-owned firms have increased to 11.3 million businesses representing 38% of all U.S. firms.