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White House to Unveil Plan to Expand Regulation of Banking Industry « The Washington Independent

The Washington Post reports that President Obama today will roll out his plan to increase regulation of the financial system.

The plan seeks to overhaul the nation’s outdated system of financial regulations. Senior officials debated using a bulldozer to clear the way for fundamental reforms but decided instead to build within the shell of the existing system, offering what amounts to an architect’s blueprint for modernizing a creaky old building.

The White House makes its case for this approach in an 85-page white paper [pdf] that describes the roots of the crisis. Gaps in regulation allowed companies to make loans many borrowers could not afford. Funding came from new kinds of investments that were poorly understood by regulators. Big firms paid employees massive bonuses, while setting aside little money to absorb potential losses.

“While this crisis had many causes, it is clear now that the government could have done more to prevent many of these problems from growing out of control and threatening the stability of our financial system,” the white paper says.

The plan is built around five key points, according to a briefing last night by senior administration officials and a copy of the white paper obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposals would greatly increase the power of the Federal Reserve, creating stronger and more consistent oversight of the largest financial firms.

It also asks Congress to authorize the government for the first time to dismantle large firms that fall into trouble, avoiding a chaotic collapse that could disrupt the economy.

Federal oversight would be extended to dark corners of the financial markets, imposing new rules on trading in complex derivatives and securities built from mortgage loans.

The government would create a new agency to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

And the administration would increase its coordination with other nations to prevent businesses from migrating to less regulated venues.

According to The Post, the plan calls for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection agency to oversee mortgage lenders and protect borrowers, greatly expanded powers for the Federal Reserve to regulate large institutions whose collapse could pose a systemic risk to financial markets, and the merging of the troubled Office of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency to “to create a single agency to oversee banks with national charters.”

President Obama is expected officially announce the proposal later today, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is set to discuss the plan before the banking committees in both the House and Senate tomorrow.

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