Mar 16 2016

The Wall Street Journal: Sen. Shelby Renews Push for Regulatory Relief Bill

WASHINGTON—Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said he would continue to press this year for passage of a bill to scale back the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul law.

The Alabama Republican, speaking at the American Bankers Association’s annual meeting, said a top objective is easing the rules for community banks.

Democrats and the Obama administration have criticized the Senate Republicans’ bill as an overreach that could rollback some of the fundamental protections put in place after the 2008 financial crisis.

“I do not think we should take ‘No’ for an answer, and I do not plan to as chairman of the Banking Committee,” Mr. Shelby said, expressing his willingness to work with both sides of the aisle to lessen certain regulations while helping to reduce systemic risk.

Some elements of the legislation already have bipartisan support, including relief for small- and medium-size banks.

“I believe this should be a bipartisan bill,” said Mr. Shelby, who introduced “The Financial Regulatory Improvement Act” in 2015. “I believe it is possible to garner strong bipartisan support through these shared principles. We just need to get past politics so that we can deal with policies.”

Mr. Shelby’s push comes a day after House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) previewed a House GOP plan to revamp Dodd-Frank, a proposal that would ease regulations for community banks and mandate a cost analysis of proposed policy changes.

The legislation outlined by the two committee chairmen likely won’t clear Congress soon but will frame the GOP agenda this election year and could steer the debate if Republicans win the White House and keep control of Congress in November.

Mr. Shelby’s legislative draft calls for a regulatory framework based on the systemic risk a bank poses, not simply on size alone. It would also give regulators more power to designate banks with assets between $50 billion and $500 billion as systemically important, and thus subject to tighter regulation. All financial firms above that threshold would be automatically labeled systemically important.

“Our goal should be less risk in the system and therefore, less of the need for government intervention,” said Mr. Shelby.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), a Banking Committee member, said at a separate panel at the ABA meeting that the panel came “close to a deal” on Mr. Shelby’s legislation. Historically, bills on the committee garner bipartisan support. Despite agreement across party lines, she said the bill “got slapped pretty hard” due to a number of rumors, including one about plans by the committee to shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Ms. Heitkamp suggested a package of changes was more likely to get done early next year.