GOP's Dodd-Frank rewrite would strip consumer bureau of power

GOP's Dodd-Frank rewrite would strip consumer bureau of power
© Greg Nash

A sweeping Republican rewrite of the Dodd-Frank Act would significantly reduce the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) power and subjected it to greater White House and congressional oversight.

The bill would turn the CFPB into an executive agency with a removable director, drastically limited powers and a budget controlled by Congress.

House Republicans are preparing major changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, the post-recession banking regulation long reviled by the GOP. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) will release a comprehensive rewrite of the bill by the end of April, a Republican committee aide said Tuesday.

President Trump said Tuesday morning that Republicans are working on "a major elimination of the horrendous Dodd-Frank regulations, keeping some obviously, but getting rid of many."

The new version of Hensarling’s 2016 CHOICE Act would rename the CFPB as the Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency and rein in its powers, according to an outline sent to Financial Services Committee Republicans. These changes in the new version of Hensarling's bill are similar to those proposed in a February memo from the chairman.

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The CFPB would lose its independent agency status, and its director would be fireable at will by the president. The president would also appoint and remove a deputy director, and the new bureau would be limited to enforcing current laws, losing its power to crack down on “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”

The original CHOICE Act would have created a bipartisan commission to run the bureau, which Republicans have long called an unaccountable, overreaching burden on the United States economy. Both versions would subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process, meaning lawmakers could defund the agency entirely.

House Republicans have dialed up pressure on Trump to fire CFPB Director Richard Cordray, following a federal court ruling the bureau's structure unconstitutional. Financial Services Committee Republicans excoriated Cordray during his appearance at a hearing last week during which Hensarling asked why Cordray hadn't be fired yet.

Under Hensarling's new bill, the CFPB would also be barred from monitoring financial markets, and an Office of Economics would review all rules the bureau issues. The agency would no longer be allowed to publish its database of consumers’ complaints about companies, and all Dodd-Frank mandated advisory boards would be eliminated.

The new bill would also make substantial changes to how federal regulators monitor the largest banks and financial firms. Such firms would only have to submit to federal stress tests once every two years instead of annually, and would have to do an internal stress test each year.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would no longer be included in the stress test process, which would be mandated to include certain cost-benefit analysis of trade-offs between credit availability and financial risk. The bill would also create criminal penalties for leaking information about stress tests.

“Chairman Hensarling looks forward to working with the President and his administration to eliminate Dodd-Frank and replace it with the Financial CHOICE Act," said Hensarling spokeswoman Sarah Rozier. "Our plan, which will be released in the next few weeks, is a bold and visionary plan that protects consumers by holding Wall Street and Washington accountable, ends bailouts, and unleashes America’s economic potential.”