Main Provisions of Obama Reform Plan for Financial Regulation

June 17, 2009

President Barack Obama plans on Wednesday to unveil his proposal to overhaul U.S. financial regulatory system.

Here are the main provisions as outlined by administration officials and as detailed in a document obtained by Reuters.

  • ELIMINATE THRIFT CHARTER, CREATE NATIONAL BANK SUPERVISOR
    Bank regulation would be streamlined with a new National Bank Supervisor assuming the functions of both the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The plan would eliminate the charter for thrifts that underlies that U.S. savings and loan industry.

  • CREATE SYSTEMIC RISK REGULATOR
    The plan would make the Federal Reserve the consolidated supervisor of large, systemically important and interconnected firms.

  • CREATE FINANCIAL SERVICES OVERSIGHT COUNCIL
    Chaired by the Treasury Department, the council would fill regulatory gaps in the system. It would replace the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets and would play a role in identifying systematically important firms to be regulated by the Fed. In addition to the Treasury secretary, the council would consist of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the director of the new National Bank Supervisor, the director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

  • MORE STRINGENT CAPITAL AND LIQUIDITY STANDARDS
    Financial institutions would have to strengthen their capital cushions to absorb losses when times are tough, and make themselves more liquid, or be able to move quickly in and out of various holdings, “with more stringent requirements for the largest and most interconnected firms.”

  • SECURITIZATION
    Asset-backed securities issuers would face new reporting requirements, including loan-level data and compensation information on brokers, originators and sponsors. This information would be available to investors and credit-rating agencies throughout the life of a securitization.

    Securitization originators, sponsors or brokers would have to keep at least 5 percent of the performance risk in them. Loan originators would be barred from transferring that risk.

    Legal documentation for transactions would be more standardized to improve valuations. The SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority would expand the TRACE electronic trade reporting database now used for corporate bonds to include asset-backed securities.

    Compensation of securitization brokers, originators, underwriters, sponsors and others would link to long-term performance and the interests of borrowers and investors.

    Generally Accepted Accounting Principles would be changed to eliminate immediate recognition of “gain on sale” by originators in a securitization, requiring instead that originators reflect income over the life of the assets.

    Fees and commissions received by loan brokers and loan officers would spread out over time and decline if a loan runs into trouble due to poor underwriting.

    Sponsors of securitizations would have to stand behind securitized products sold to investors with warranties.

  • CREDIT RATING AGENCIES
    Reliance by regulators on credit-rating agencies would be reduced by changing some federal legal requirements covering debt issuance that encourage the use of credit ratings.

  • CONSUMER, INVESTOR PROTECTION
    An independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency would be formed, with the power to write and enforce rules for financial firms dealing with fair lending.

    The agency would have the authority to require loan originators to retain 5 percent of credit risk. It would define standards for “plain vanilla” products such as mortgages with straightforward terms; restrict or ban prepayment penalties; and ensure that banks, nonbanks, and independent mortgage brokers follow the same rules.

    It would also enforce the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages banks to make loans in disadvantaged communities.

    It would establish a council made up of heads of the SEC, Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other agencies to help address gaps in consumer and investor protection.

  • OTC DERIVATIVES
    Oversight of over-the-counter derivatives would be imposed, as well as “harmonizing” of futures and securities regulation, and stronger safeguards for payment and settlement systems.

    “All derivatives contracts will be subject to regulation, all derivatives dealers subject to supervision, and regulators will be empowered to enforce rules against manipulation and abuse,” according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers.

  • RESOLUTION AUTHORITY
    A federal government mechanism would be set up for “orderly resolution of any financial holding company whose failure might threaten the stability of the financial system.”

    Draft legislation for this “resolution authority” has already been proposed by the administration, giving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp this new duty.

  • INVESTMENT BANKS, SECURITIES FIRMS
    The plan would eliminate the SEC’s program to supervise the largest investment banks. The Federal Reserve would supervise and regulate investment banking firms that seek consolidated supervision.

    But the SEC could initiate wind-down authority when the largest subsidiary of a failing firm is a broker dealer or securities firm. Treasury should have authority to appoint the SEC as conservator or receiver when the largest subsidiary of a failing firm is a broker dealer or securities firm.

  • FUTURES AND SECURITIES REGULATION

    CFTC and SEC should make recommendations to Congress for changes to statutes and rules to align regulation of futures and securities.

    SEC should establish fiduciary duty for broker dealers who offer investment advice and align regulation of investment advisers and broker dealers.

    SEC should gain authority to establish a fund to pay whistleblowers.

  • TIMING
    Administration plans to send proposal to lawmakers on Capitol Hill shortly and hopes to have new rules in place by the end of the year. Obama on Tuesday conceded it would be a “heavy lift” to convince lawmakers to enact all elements of his proposal.

(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Karey Wutkowski, Rachelle Younglai, and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Gary Hill)

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