Trump moves to unshackle big banks from tough rules

Mr Trump with a signed executive order related to the review of the Dodd-Frank Act in the White House, in Washington, DC, on Friday. The law was put in place to prevent the excessive risk-taking that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr Trump with a signed executive order related to the review of the Dodd-Frank Act in the White House, in Washington, DC, on Friday. The law was put in place to prevent the excessive risk-taking that led to the 2008 financial crisis.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

He calls for review of law enacted after 2008 crisis even as critics want more oversight

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has launched a broad effort to ease regulations on Wall Street, setting up what is likely to be a protracted battle over how to unwind rules put in place after the last financial crisis.
 

In an executive order on Friday, Mr Trump ordered a review of the laws and regulations that govern the United States financial system in an opening bid to upend 2010's financial overhaul law known as Dodd-Frank.

The complicated legislation, which took months to negotiate, touches nearly every aspect of the way banks operate and includes hundreds of rules, some of which have yet to be implemented.

"We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank," Mr Trump said during a meeting with business leaders on Friday morning. "Because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses. They just can't borrow money... because the banks just won't let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd- Frank."

The prospect of another drawn-out battle over a Wall Street overhaul is being met tepidly by some financial executives, who are wary of reawakening populist passions. After being the target of so many attacks in the years after the financial crisis, many have begun to see their profits grow and stock prices surge again, and they have urged the administration to proceed cautiously. Adjusting to a new regulatory environment would be too costly, they say.

Mr Trump has so far been vague about what he would do to the complex law - the language of his executive order did not even include the phrase "Dodd-Frank".

Instead, he instructed the Treasury Secretary to report back in 120 days on what rules promote or inhibit the administration's priorities.

Dodd-Frank has had a profound effect on the financial industry, forcing banks to submit to yearly "stress tests" to prove they could withstand economic turbulence and draw up "living wills" that lay out how the banks could be dismantled without harming the rest of the financial system.

ROLLING BACK REGULATION

We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank... I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses. They just can't borrow money... because the banks just won't let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.

MR DONALD TRUMP

One controversial component, called the Volcker Rule, bars banks from trading in high-risk securities using their own capital, a practice that contributed to the last crisis.

The rule also limited the ability of banks to hide exotic risky securities off the banks' balance sheets, concealing the extent of the banks' debts.

With Dodd-Frank still not fully implemented, critics have argued that Wall Street requires more oversight, not less.

But Mr Trump, who often attacked Wall Street during the campaign (and whose chief strategist Stephen Bannon has ripped into the big banks in the past), has adopted a different tone since taking office, offering to help the financial industry as part of a deregulatory agenda to boost the economy.

During the meeting with more than a dozen chief executives, Mr Trump noted that there were several bankers in the room, including Mr Larry Fink, chief executive of the massive investment firm BlackRock. "Larry's got a lot of my money, and I have to tell you, he got me great returns," Mr Trump said to laughter in the room.

Later, he noted that Mr Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world, was also there.

"There is nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie," Mr Trump said, motioning to Mr Dimon across the table.

One of the authors of Dodd-Frank, former representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, was critical of new attacks on the law.

"This is a betrayal of his pledge to help the ordinary citizen against the big guys, against Wall Street. He is giving Wall Street what it couldn't get through the political process," Mr Frank said.

The Nasdaq finished at a fresh record high on the back of Mr Trump's executive order and solid jobs data on Friday, while the S&P 500 climbed to within a point of a new peak and the Dow vaulted back above 20,000 points.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'Trump moves to unshackle big banks from tough rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe