U.S. Chamber seeks changes to financial risk council

WASHINGTON Mon Dec 2, 2013 2:48pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday called for changes to the U.S. financial risk council that could slow the process by which it designates large financial firms as "systemic," subjecting them to tougher supervision.

In a five-page list of proposed reforms, the Chamber criticized the Financial Stability Oversight Council's governance structure, saying it lacks transparency and does not give enough deference to the FSOC-member regulators who have the most expertise.

The Chamber plans to host a panel discussion on the subject on Wednesday, where several experts who have been critical in the past of the FSOC's operations will speak about systemic risk regulation.

"Structural shortcomings have been exposed," the Chamber wrote in its list of proposed reforms. "We believe important changes must be made."

The FSOC is a council of regulators created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law that is chaired by the Treasury Secretary and composed of the heads of other banking and market regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The FSOC has the power to designate firms whose collapse could pose widespread market disruption as "systemically important financial institutions," or SIFIs. Any firm designated faces tougher capital rules and oversight by the Federal Reserve.

Each member of the council casts a vote in deciding which firms should face designation.

Earlier this year, the FSOC voted to designate General Electric Co's GE Capital, American International Group and Prudential Financial Inc.

The FSOC has also started looking into whether large asset managers like Blackrock could be next in line.

For the vote on Prudential, the FSOC's independent insurance member Roy Woodall and Federal Housing Financial Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco both dissented.

The Chamber did not explicitly discuss the FSOC's decision-making on the designation of Prudential.

However, it was critical of the FSOC's current voting threshold, and called for changes that would empower those who vote against designation.

"If the primary regulator or independent council member does not vote in favor of designating a non-bank financial company for which the council member has industry expertise... then a second vote shall be scheduled within 45 days," the Chamber wrote. "The primary regulator shall issue a report to the FSOC within 30 days of the initial vote explaining its rationale as to why a firm should not be designated."

In addition to changing the voting threshold, the Chamber suggested a slew of other reforms.

One proposal would allow the primary regulator of a designated non-bank SIFI to oversee the firm, rather than the Federal Reserve.

A third proposal calls for expanding representation on the FSOC.

Currently, the FSOC is only composed of the heads of each regulatory agency, even though many of the agencies like the SEC have multi-member commissions.

The views of these other regulators are not represented at the FSOC - a fact that led to some controversy last year after the FSOC and the SEC butted heads over whether to propose a new round of reforms for money market funds.

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