Senate panel advances nomination of Quarles to Fed board

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday voted to advance the White House’s nomination of Randal Quarles to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, a further boost for President Donald Trump’s plan to loosen Wall Street regulations.

Quarles, a prominent investor and former Treasury official, was confirmed by the Senate Banking Committee as vice chairman for supervision at the Fed, a post that will be in the spotlight as the Trump administration looks to unpick the regulations brought in to rein in banks after the 2008 financial crisis.

The committee also voted to advance the nomination of Joseph Otting as comptroller of the currency, a position which regulates national banks. Both nominations now head to the full Senate, where they are expected to ultimately be confirmed.

Republicans on the panel unanimously backed the picks, and Quarles received support from five of the 11 Democrats. Otting received support from all the Republicans and just one Democrat, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

During a hearing before the committee in July, Quarles said he would ensure more transparency around the Fed’s so-called stress tests for big banks and would work to simplify the Volcker rule, which bans banks from making speculative bets with their own money. Wall Street critics say that rule is vague and unworkable.

The Senate panel votes came a day after Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, a veteran central banker who had spoken out against weakening Wall Street regulations, announced he would step down in October due to personal reasons.

Analysts said the appointment of Quarles and the departure of Fischer could accelerate Trump's deregulation agenda, potentially saving banks such as Goldman SachsGS.N, JPMorgan JPM.N and Morgan Stanley MS.N billions in future revenue.

Quarles will also vote on monetary policy as a member of the Fed’s board of governors.

“President Trump has the opportunity to radically remake the Federal Reserve Board in the coming months,” said analysts at Compass Point Research & Trading.

“Our view remains that the prudential bank regulators will orchestrate a broad deregulatory agenda for the nation’s banks, with a particular focus on streamlining the stress testing process, softening the capital and liquidity framework, and securing regulatory relief for the nation’s regional/community banks.”

Otting is seen as a more controversial pick than Quarles due to his role as former chief executive of OneWest Bank, which foreclosed on 36,000 homes after striking a lucrative deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also was a top executive at OneWest.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao