House Passes Financial Choice Act

The House today passed the Financial Choice Act by a mostly party line vote of 233 to 186 (one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against). The legislation is Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling’s sweeping, 600-page bill aimed at reforming parts of the Dodd-Frank Act’s extensive supervisory regime and providing regulatory relief for banks.

The bill includes a number of regulatory relief provisions long sought by ABA as part of its Blueprint for Growth, including a Qualified Mortgage safe harbor for mortgage loans held in portfolio, more tailored supervision based on an institution’s risk profile and business model, greater flexibility for savings associations, relief from various reporting requirements, and repeal of the Volcker Rule.

Included in the bill is a “regulatory off-ramp” for larger institutions subject to DFA’s heightened prudential standards and Basel III’s capital and liquidity standards, provided those institutions elect to maintain a 10 percent non-risk weighted leverage ratio. The Choice Act also focuses on ending “too big to fail” by replacing DFA’s Orderly Liquidation Authority with a new Bankruptcy Code designed to accommodate the failure of a large, complex financial institution.

Also targeted for reform by the bill is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which would be renamed the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency and stripped of its examination powers and “UDAAP” enforcement authority. The agency would be led by a single director removable at will by the president, and subject to the congressional appropriations process.

The bill’s passage reflects an important step toward providing meaningful regulatory reform that will help America’s banks better serve their customers and communities, ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols said, though he noted that the bill “would have been much stronger had a provision to repeal the Durbin Amendment been retained.” With the bill’s passage, the fight for regulatory reform now shifts to the Senate.

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