Overnight Finance: Treasury seeks changes to Dodd-Frank plan on failing banks | WH predicts 3 percent growth through 2020 | Fed sees inflation, rate hikes ahead | Fraud charges for former bitcoin exchange | Justices narrow whistleblower protections

Overnight Finance: Treasury seeks changes to Dodd-Frank plan on failing banks | WH predicts 3 percent growth through 2020 | Fed sees inflation, rate hikes ahead | Fraud charges for former bitcoin exchange | Justices narrow whistleblower protections
© Greg Nash

Happy Wednesday and welcome back to Overnight Finance, where we're short on Trump and Romney staying friendly through 2018. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

 

THE BIG DEAL: The Treasury Report released its long-awaited report on the Dodd-Frank Act's Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA), the process through which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) can dismantle a failing bank before it triggers a credit crisis.

Treasury called on Congress to write a new chapter of the bankruptcy code for major banks that is meant to supercede OLA. But Treasury also said its authority should remain as an absolute last resort with proposing major changes.

"We conclude unequivocally that bankruptcy should be the resolution method of first resort," wrote Treasury.

The OLA process was crafted as a way to prevent the federal government from needing to bail out failing banks with taxpayer money, as it did in 2008, to stabilize the economy.

Democrats and Dodd-Frank's supporters say OLA is a critical tool that prevents the need for the federal government to bail out failing banks. They argue that since the fund doesn't use taxpayer money, it helps protect Americans from exposure to risks in the financial markets.

Critics of the law, including Republicans, have long argued that the OLA incentivizes risky behavior at big banks with a government guarantee they consider a bailout, despite the lack of taxpayer funding.

Treasury's proposal strikes a middle ground between the parties, protecting the bulk of one of the few parts of Dodd-Frank favored by banks. I've got more here on how OLA works, why Treasury wants to change it, and how the proposal has been received.

 

Reactions

  • "OLA is an important tool to ensure economic resiliency." -- Anthony Cimino, head of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable.
  • "...significant systemic risk in a crisis..." -- Fitch managing director Joo-Yung Lee on the impact of a full OLA repeal.
  • "OLA must not be an unaccountable bailout for undeserving bankers." -- Better Markets president Dennis Kelleher.

 

What comes next: Don't expect to see Congress acting on this any time soon. The bipartisan Senate bill to loosen parts of Dodd-Frank doesn't touch OLA, and changes to the process would likely be blocked by Senate Democrats. The House tried to repeal OLA in the CHOICE Act, which is currently collecting dust in the upper chamber.

Treasury or FDIC could attempt to change aspects of OLA through the regulatory process, but that could take an exceptionally long time.

So, what? Treasury's report sets the Trump administration's policy on OLA to the left of House conservatives. If Trump serves long enough to see a GOP wave give Republicans enough support to move major Dodd-Frank changes, it could be a potential flashpoint. But that's looking way further into the future than we probably should...

 

LEADING THE DAY

The new new normal? The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) on Wednesday said it projects the U.S. economy to grow by at least 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) through 2020.

The CEA's 2018 economic outlook, released Wednesday, argues that measures taken by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE to slash corporate taxes and cut back regulations have salvaged an economy they say was throttled by President Obama's policies.

CEA Chairman Kevin Hassett said Wednesday that the White House forecast represents a new standard for the U.S. economy thanks to the Trump administration's policy agenda. He said tax reform and a deregulation effort are undoing the damage inflicted by the Obama administration.

"That normal is happening because we've restored economic policies to where a sensible, rational country would put them," Hassett said during a call with reporters. He said the Obama administration's policies "tempered the success of the very middle-class households they were intended to help."

Not many agree with the White House and see far more risk to the economy ahead. I break that down here: http://bit.ly/2CdwAu3.

 

Rate hikes (still) ahead: The Federal Reserve expects the U.S. economy to keep improving, driving up wages and prices along the way, according to minutes released Wednesday from the bank's January meeting.

Several members of the Fed's Federal Open Markets Committee, which sets U.S. monetary policy, boosted how much they expected the U.S. economy to grow in 2018. Fed officials said the better-than-anticipated growth in the fourth quarter of 2017, consistent job gains and stimulus from the GOP tax bill factored into their decisions. Here's more on why the Fed is sticking to its guns, and what new data could mean for the future.

  • Keep in mind: The Fed's Jan. 30-31 meeting occurred before the release of the January jobs report that exceeded economists' expectations. The economy added 200,000 jobs -- 20,000 more than had been forecast -- and wages grew 2.9 percent over the past 12 months, the highest rate since 2009. If anything, that bolsters the Fed's argument to raise rates.

 

Debt sweat: Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass said Wednesday "the debt is too high now and is going higher."

"I'm troubled by the deficit, I'm troubled by the national debt. And I think we need a three-year program to grapple with it, starting this month, next month and on forward," Malpass said on Fox Business Network.

The cherry on top: The GOP's tax-cut bill is expected to add about $1.5 trillion to the deficit before accounting for economic growth, and the bipartisan budget deal Congress passed earlier this month raises spending caps by $300 billion over two years.

 

SEC, DOJ crack down on bitcoin fraudster: Federal authorities on Wednesday brought fraud charges against BitFunder, a defunct cryptocurrency stock exchange, and arrested the company's founder for obstruction of justice.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the company with defrauding users. The Justice Department separately arrested founder Jon Montroll and charged him with lying to the SEC during their probe into the fraud allegations. The Hill's senior cryptocurrency correspondent Ali Breland explains what happened.

 

SCOTUS rules on Dodd-Frank whistleblower rule: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that anti-retaliation protections under the Dodd-Frank Act only kick in when a whistleblower has reported the stock and investment fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In a unanimous decision, the court said the text of the law written by Congress following the financial crisis in 2011 defines a "whistleblower" as someone who provides information relating to a violation of the securities law to the commission.
The case centered on Paul Somers, a former employee for Digital Realty Trust Inc. who was fired after he reported alleged securities violations to his senior management, but not the SEC.

 

MARKET CHECK: Wacky. U.S. stocks dropped after the Fed minutes were released despite a brief initial rally. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 130 points on the day (0.5 percent) while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 suffered 0.2 and 0.6 percent losses, respectively.

The Fed minutes clearly pointed to the bank maintaining its projection of one to two more rate hikes this year. So why did traders, who usually fear rising interest rates, respond so positively at first?

According to CNBC, "As stocks initially surged after the 2 p.m. ET release of the minutes, taking the Dow Jones industrial average 300 points higher, bonds sold off more. Rates move opposite price. The Dow then pulled a total reversal, erasing all of its gains and closing down 166 points at 24,797.

"'I think they first grabbed at all the dovish stuff, and then they said 'wait a minute,'' said Art Cashin, UBS director of floor operations at the New York Stock Exchange. 'I think it's simply a rethink and now it's feeding on itself.'"

 

GOOD TO KNOW

  • A bipartisan group of 68 House lawmakers are urging Senate leaders to get the Export-Import Bank running at full speed again, writes The Hill's Vicki Needham. 
  • The long-running feud between banks and credit unions over the latter's tax exemption flared again Wednesday with accusations of deception and a call for a Senate hearing.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) new guidance says companies should inform investors about cybersecurity risks, even if they have not yet been targeted by hackers in a cyberattack.
  • Two thirds of voters said they want President Trump to release his tax returns, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found.
  • U.S. business leaders are increasingly confident in the global economy but fear the toll a widening skills gap could have on their firms, according to a survey released Wednesday.
  • More than half of U.S. voters say they have not noticed an increase in their paychecks following a sweeping series of tax cuts signed into law by President Trump last month, according to a new Politico-Morning Consult poll.

 

GOING DEEPER

  • The New York Times explores a new way of assessing what does and doesn't drive up labor productivity.
  • The Wall Street Journal explains how the beleaguered Office of Financial Research fell short of its supporters' expectations.
  • Marketwatch lays out why hedge funds could end up on wrong side of the bond market.

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • A major commodity traders' retirement account went negative for the year when a blockchain company it heavily invested in got revealed as a fraud.